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Stewart is now NASCAR's king of the road

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Tony Stewart's primary residence is in his hometown of Columbus, IN, but after winning at Watkins Glen International for a record fifth time, Stewart declared, "This is my house," referring to the 2.45-mile road course in New York's Finger Lakes region.

The current Sprint Cup Series points leader put on an impressive performance at Watkins Glen, leading the final 24 laps and easily holding off Marcos Ambrose at the finish.

Stewart has finished either first or second in seven of the last eight races at Watkins Glen.

"This place has just been good to us," Stewart said. "It's a track we've had a lot of success at. It's neat to be a guy that's won the most races here in the series."

When the 90-lap race at Watkins Glen was delayed one day due to rain, the weather played into Stewart's favor. Monday's high temperatures made for a slick track surface.

Tony Stewart has already notched three wins since the first Pocono race in June.
"I like it when it gets hot and slick (at Watkins Glen)," he said. "It seems like it's that way anywhere. It kind of has played into our hand for the last 10 years it seems like. This part of the year when the temperatures are at their highest, we tend to pick up, I believe. I think we can handle the slicker conditions sometimes a little better than some of the guys around us."

Stewart tends to sizzle in the summer months. "Smoke," a nickname bestowed to him since his early racing career, has already notched three wins since the first Pocono race in June. He won five times during a seven-race span in the summer of 2005, the same year he won his second Cup championship. Stewart also recorded three victories from July to August in 2007.

Kyle Busch won at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, CA in 2008, but Stewart has since flexed his muscles on the road courses. Stewart finished second to Kasey Kahne at Sonoma in June.

Stewart has now surpassed Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd for second on the series' all-time road course wins list. Stewart has won twice at Sonoma (2001 and '05).

Jeff Gordon had previously ruled the road courses with a record nine victories. However, Gordon has not mastered Watkins Glen or Sonoma since the Car of Tomorrow was introduced to Cup racing in '07.

"We don't have the advantage over the competition that we did at one time," Gordon said. "This car makes the competition so much tighter and so much closer that it's hard to get an advantage. It's certainly hard to move up through the field if you don't have that perfect day."

Gordon's string of bad luck on road courses continued at Watkins Glen, where he was involved in a spectacular multi-car crash on lap 62. After making contact with Kasey Kahne in turn nine, Sam Hornish Jr. spun hard into the tire barrier. Hornish then bounced back on the track and slammed violently into Gordon, causing him to hit the barrier head on. The four-time Cup champion was not injured in the incident, but spent a lengthy amount of time in the infield care center after complaining of soreness in his back.

Earlier this year, Gordon disclosed he was suffering chronic back pain. He underwent a medical procedure in hopes of alleviating pain that had gotten progressively worse. Since then, many have speculated that Gordon's back issues might affect the longevity of his storied racing career.

After winning at Watkins Glen, Stewart essentially secured a spot in the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship. He currently holds a 756-point advantage over 13th-place Busch, as four races remain before the start of the playoffs.

With proven success already in his first year as driver and owner, Stewart will likely continue his dominance at Watkins Glen and Sonoma and remain NASCAR's "king of the road."

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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