Stewart finds #039;Holy Grail#039; with Indy win

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tony Stewart was too spent to climb the fence right away and too happy to care.

A lifelong quest to win a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended Sunday with Stewart finally getting his ''Holy Grail,'' and he made sure to draw out the celebration as long as he could while the partisan crowd roared with approval.

It wasn't the native Hoosier's beloved Indianapolis 500, but the former IndyCar champion, who has longed to win a race at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, held off a determined challenge from Kasey Kahne to grab an emotional victory in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

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It was the fourth victory in the last six races and seventh top-10 finish in a row for the hottest driver in NASCAR, moving him into the lead in the Nextel Cup standings for the first time since he wrapped up his only Cup title in 2002.

''I wish I could put it into words,'' Stewart said. ''It's been my entire life.''

This one was up for grabs nearly to the end, with Stewart taking his first lead by passing Brian Vickers 60 with laps to go. But the 25-year-old Kahne, last year's top rookie, didn't make it easy, passing Stewart for the lead with 27 laps left in the 160-lap event - bringing a groan from the crowd of more than 250,000.

Stewart stayed with Kahne, though. After Jimmie Johnson - who came into the race as the points leader - blew a tire and hit the wall on lap 144, bringing out the last of nine caution flags in the race, Stewart took advantage of the restart on lap on lap 150 to regain the lead.