The roar of Kansas Speedway's sold-out crowd kept most people from hearing Tony Stewart's car run quietly out of fuel on the final lap of Sunday's Banquet 400 presented by ConAgra Foods.
Stewart, a two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, said his tank went dry in the second turn, leaving him no choice but to put the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet in neutral and coast around the 1.5-mile track.
Stewart was fortunate that he had a 17-second lead heading to the final lap and top challenger Casey Mears was in the same fuel predicament. He ran out in the third turn.
Stewart was watching for Mears in his mirror, but he didn't know the situation because crew chief Greg Zipadelli was making too much noise on the team's radio.
"He was screaming so loud I thought we had lost the race," Stewart said of Zipadelli. "It wasn't until I got all the way around to the first turn that I knew we had won."
The margin of victory was 12.422 seconds, giving Stewart three wins for the season and 27 for his NEXTEL Cup career.
Stewart and Mears were among the few drivers not to pit for fuel late in the race. They were free to gamble on fuel mileage as they're not in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup race.
Mark Martin finished third in the Banquet 400 to move to third in the point standings. He is 70 points out of the lead with seven races left in the season.
Jeff Burton, who finished fifth, maintained the Chase's top position and actually improved his chances of winning his first championship. Rather than having four-time series champion Jeff Gordon six points on his heels, rookie Denny Hamlin is second, 69 points behind. Hamlin finished 18th in Sunday's race.
Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Gordon all were involved in yellow-flag conditions Sunday. Burton missed hitting Ryan Newman on lap 16 of 267; Harvick and Gordon spun through the grass.
Harvick later fell a lap down, but he managed to finish 15th and keep fifth place in the standings. Kenseth finished 23rd; he's now in fourth place.
Gordon, a two-time winner at Kansas Speedway, had a fuel pump failure and finished 39th, which knocked him to sixth in the standings.
NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series will return to Kansas Speedway Sept. 29-30, 2007. The NASCAR events are part of the RPM Ticket, which includes the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and IRL IndyCar Series on April 28-29, 2007. Advance tickets are available now by calling 913.328.RACE or toll free at 866.460.RACE.