Jeff Burton thought he was out of chances. Then Tony Stewart ran out of gas.
So Burton, who had dominated the Jiffy Lube 300 on the track the last two years, won on Sunday with a three-second pit stop.
Stewart, trying to become the first rookie to win since the late Davey Alllison in 1987, came within two laps of doing it. But his Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac went dry exiting the second turn on the 298th of 300 laps at New Hampshire International Speedway.
"We were out to lunch," said Burton, who wasn't even fast enough to make the field.
He got on a provisional awarded to car owner Jack Roush, started 38th and wasn't even able to make a serious run for the lead. But after everyone had pitted in the waning laps, only Stewart and John Andretti remained ahead of him.
Both ran dry and stalled simultaneously on pit road, giving Burton his ninth career victory and fourth this year - tying him with Jeff Gordon for the series lead.
"We didn't start 38th because it was a bad qualifying lap," Burton said of his position on the grid. "We were just slow all weekend."
So slow, that Burton figured there was little more to run for than points. He gave crew chief Frank Stoddard most of the credit.
"We made five changes on the car this morning," Burton said. "We got the car in contention when no one thought we could have."
With car after car pitting near the end, it was anybody's race until the final two trips around the 1.058-mile oval. Kenny Wallace, never a factor in the race, wound up second in a Chevrolet, 1.347 seconds behind for his best career finish.
"We were fortunate to win," Burton said. "They had a great car, and Tony Stewart's a great driver. It's too bad for them."
Gordon, who bumped his way by points leader Dale Jarrett on the final lap, finished third in a Chevy.
"There are a lot more races," Jarrett said when asked about the contact with Gordon and a resulting port-race conversation.
"That's between Jeff and me," Jarrett said of that.
But Jarrett was the biggest winner of the day despite the fourth-place finish of his Ford. He entered the race - the 18th of 34 on the schedule - with a 177-point lead over Bobby Labonte.
| Rusty Wallace spins back at oncoming Jeff Gordon. (AP)|
But Labonte spun into the wall on the 207th lap, wound up 38th and fell to fourth in the standings. Jarrett now leads Burton by a season-high 240 points.
Stewart, trying to become the first rookie to finish in the top 10 in points since Jody Ridley was seventh in 1980, woun up 10th. He remained sixth in the points race.
Stewart, who has a reputation for being testy, refused comment and left shortly after the race.
Bill Elliott was fifth in a Ford. He was followed by Mark Martin, who went all the way despite a broken rib, broken leg and broken wrist.
Wally Dallenbach, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmy Spencer were behind Martin.
Seven cautions covering 51 laps slowed Burton's average speed to 101.876 mph. There were nine lead changes among six drivers.
Burton got $139,490 from a $2.6 million purse
Stewart led twice for 118 laps.
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