KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) – Tony Stewart prefers winning races on raw speed, not fuel strategy. At least he had enough time to savor the experience as he puttered across the finish line to win Sunday’s Banquet 400.

“I got to see the checkered flag for a really long time for once,” said Stewart, who ran out of gas on the last lap, but had built up such a big lead that he was able to coast to victory.

After being eliminated from championship contention last month, Stewart and his crew were free to gamble on gas in the closing laps of the NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway.

It paid off – but just barely. Stewart’s tank ran dry on the last lap and he crawled across the finish line to win. As he crept past the flag stand, Stewart didn’t immediately know whether anybody had passed him for the lead.

“That is the thing about not being in the Chase – we can roll the dice,” Stewart said.

Jimmie Johnson could have made a similar gamble to go for the victory, but he’s still chasing a Nextel Cup championship and played it safe.

It didn’t work.

Johnson gave up the race lead to pit for an extra splash of fuel with four laps to go. But he was penalized for speeding on pit road and finished 14th.

“I definitely don’t feel I was speeding on pit road but the computer doesn’t lie, so we’ll just have to see what happens,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, saw his championship momentum evaporate a few laps earlier. Gordon was running eighth when his car developed an apparent fuel-pressure problem with 29 laps to go, causing him to slow to a crawl on the backstretch.

After getting a push back to the pits from former Hendrick teammate Terry Labonte, Gordon’s crew tried to fix his car but couldn’t get him back on the track. He finished 39th.

“We can still win the championship, but I am just upset right now,” Gordon said. “I want to know what happened, I want to get out of here and move on.”

Casey Mears also gambled on gas and finished second, zigzagging his way to the checkered flag to try to force the last drops of fuel from his tank into his engine.

“We thought we’d be about a lap and a half short and we ended up being a half a lap short,” Mears said.

Chase contender Mark Martin finished third. Martin, a self-described pessimist who has come agonizingly close to winning championships in the past, said he fully expects to wreck at Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

But if that doesn’t happen, he says, who knows?

“So far, I haven’t had a disaster – so let’s go see what happens,” Martin said.

Jeff Burton, who broke a five-year winless streak and grabbed the points lead last weekend at Dover, also used a conservative fuel strategy and finished fifth. Burton was running second when he pitted for a splash of fuel with nine laps to go.

Sunday’s race caused a major shake-up in the points standings.

Burton came into the race with a six-point lead over Gordon in the standings, and leaves with an unofficial 69-point lead over Denny Hamlin, who managed to climb two spots with an 18th-place finish.

“I hate those fuel mileage things,” Burton said. “But my guys did a great job today.”

Martin moved up to third in the standings, 70 points behind Burton. Gordon dropped four spots to sixth, 120 points behind Burton.

Burton barely avoided trouble early in the race when Ryan Newman spun out directly in front of him. Burton quickly swerved to the right, driving through a blinding cloud of smoke to narrowly miss hitting Newman.

Gordon and Kevin Harvick were right behind Burton, and ended up sliding through the infield grass.

Harvick struggled to stay on the pace and was lapped by then-race leader Kyle Busch on lap 118, but climbed to 12th with 83 laps to go and finished 15th. He remains fifth in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th and is seventh in the standings.

Sunday was rougher on Matt Kenseth, who came into the race third in the points but struggled with his car’s handling all afternoon and spun out on lap 145. Kenseth was able to rejoin the race but finished 23rd and dropped from third to fourth in the standings.

Hamlin also spun out with 115 laps to go, and had to make another unscheduled stop with 55 laps left.

Busch ran in the top five for most of the race, but was penalized for speeding on pit road before a restart with 68 laps to go and dropped to the back of the pack. He rallied in the closing laps to finish seventh.

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