WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Smoke loves it when the Glen heats up.
Tony Stewart won the rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International on a steamy Monday, holding off Australian Marcos Ambrose over the final 25 laps for his Cup-record fifth victory at the famed road course.
"I love it when it gets slick," Stewart said. "I was watching him (Ambrose). I think we were stronger in the parts we needed to be and we never looked at the fuel."
It was Stewart's third win in his first season as an owner-driver and the seventh road course win of his career, second to Jeff Gordon's NASCAR-record nine. Stewart has seven consecutive top-two finishes at The Glen, also winning in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2007 and finishing second in 2006 and 2008. He also has finished first or second in eight of the past 11 road races; he was second to Kasey Kahne at Sonoma in June.
The race originally was scheduled for Sunday, but a string of thunderstorms forced it to be postponed until Monday. Last week's race at Pocono also was postponed to Monday because of rain.
Ambrose was second, a career best, and Carl Edwards third. Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Max Papis, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10. Polesitter Jimmie Johnson, seeking his first career road win, finished 12th.
Kyle Busch, 13th in points, closed the gap on 12th-place Matt Kenseth for the cutoff spot in the Chase for the championship. Busch, who entered the race 102 points behind Kenseth, narrowed the gap to 58.
The chaos that everybody was expecting on the double-file restarts never materialized. There were no major incidents in the hard, downhill, 90-degree right-hand first turn.
Ambrose started fourth and ran up front early. But pit strategy dropped him deep in the field midway through the 90-lap race. He stayed out when the rest of the leaders pitted for the first time and was running 22nd on lap 50 after making his first stop. He ducked into the pits on lap 55 for fuel and made up 10 seconds on leader Kyle Busch.
A multicar crash involving Jeff Gordon and Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 63 brought out a 19-minute red flag stoppage and put Ambrose back in the mix.
Kasey Kahne precipitated the crash when he dived inside of Hornish coming out of turn nine on the 11-curve track and sent Hornish into the grass on the left side. Hornish's No. 77 Dodge caromed off a tire barrier and back onto the track, and Gordon's No. 24 slammed head-on into it, spinning violently around into the Armco barrier lining the track.
Both Gordon and Hornish climbed from their cars uninjured. Also involved were Andy Lally, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano.
Stewart cleared leader Kyle Busch on the restart on lap 67. Busch chose the outside line as the leader and Stewart took advantage, getting past him on the first turn and holding him off up through the high-speed esses.
Stewart needed every lap of caution he could get to make it to the end of the 220.5- mile race, and the fifth caution helped. A yellow flag came out on lap 71 for debris, setting up another double-file restart, this time with Ambrose alongside.
Ambrose dived low inside to start lap 74, but Stewart blocked him and maintained the lead, with Kyle Busch and Edwards, who started 33rd, in close pursuit.
Ambrose, running on older tires, never mounted a challenge as Stewart maintained a lead of more than a second over the final 10 laps.
"I threw everything I could at him," said Ambrose, who won the Nationwide race here Saturday with a daring move on Kyle Busch. "We got stuck in the back of the pack and had to make a gamble. The extra laps we had on the tires hurt. I closed in on him, could see him make a few mistakes, but we couldn't quite close the deal."