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Stewart Makes a ‘Z-Line’ to Victory Lane at Fontana

Second Straight Nationwide Series Win Comes in Dominating Fashion

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart dominated Monday’s rain-postponed Stater Bros. 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the newly named Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana by leading three times for a race-high 136 laps en route to his fourth career Nationwide Series victory and his second consecutive win in 2008.

“The Z-Line Designs Toyota was awesome today,” said Stewart, who won last weekend’s season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. “This thing drove well all day today. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and the Z-Line Designs team did an awesome job.”

Stewart wheeled his No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota from second in the 42-car field, as the grid was set by final 2007 car owner points after qualifying was rained-out.

Stewart grabbed the lead from the moment the green flag dropped and never looked back. He led the first 23 laps before giving up the top spot to pit for fresh tires and fuel on lap 24 during a caution period. When the race restarted on lap 25, Stewart re-took the lead and held it for 73 laps before a round of green flag pit stops from laps 98 to 110 jumbled the running order. Stewart handily led the final 40 laps despite having to conserve enough fuel to make it to the end of the 300-mile race.

“The guys on this Z-Line Designs team had great pit stops all day and kept us with great track position,” Stewart said. “We were never any further back than second, other than when the guys cycled around there in the pits. I’m really happy to lead 130-plus laps of a 150-lap race. That’s pretty impressive.”

Stewart’s victory was his first Nationwide Series win outside of Daytona, as all three of his previous wins (2005, 2006 and 2008) had come in February at Daytona in the series’ first race of the year.

“We got lucky and won Daytona this year by being in the right place at the right time, but this was just one of those days where you can count between both hands and both feet the amount of times you have cars this good,” Stewart said. “You expect it with Joe Gibbs Racing. That’s the way their cars always drive. Every time I’ve been in one of their Nationwide Series cars, they’ve been unbelievably fast.

“You can’t take anything away from Dave Rogers and these guys on this Z-Line Designs team. They made the car handle really, really well. There were a lot of cars that weren’t driving all that well out there today, but this thing drove well all day. They just did an awesome job.”

Stewart’s win put Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team first in owner points, 63 points ahead of the No. 32 team of Braun Racing after just two events on the 35-race Nationwide Series schedule. And with Kyle Busch leading the championship point standings in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing is atop the point standings in NASCAR’s top two divisions.

Stewart’s win also gave sponsor Z-Line Designs its first NASCAR victory. The San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture is in its second season of NASCAR sponsorship, and Saturday’s Stater Bros. 300 served as its kickoff event.

The Z-Line Designs Toyota returns to action March 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where five-time Nationwide Series race winner Denny Hamlin takes the wheel in the Sharpie Mini 300.

Finishing second to Stewart in the Stater Bros. 300 was Busch, who crossed the stripe 2.408 seconds after Stewart. It was a case of déjà vu, as Stewart and Busch finished 1-2 last weekend at Daytona, with Stewart outpacing Busch by .259 of a second when the checkered flag fell.

Kevin Harvick finished third, while David Reutimann and Carl Edwards secured the rest of the top-five. Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Stephen Leicht comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were five caution periods for 19 laps, with 13 drivers failing to finish the 150-lap race.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 1 Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 4 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

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