Tony Stewart took a win at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, locking him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his last ever full-time racing season. The popular result almost didn’t play out, however, with Toyota’s Denny Hamlin engaging in an intense last-lap battle with Smoke and passing the racing veteran through Turn 7.
Stewart gave chase to Hamlin and was hot on his tail through Turns 8, 9 and 10. Hamlin then carried too much speed into Turn 11 and wheel hopped before steering wide. This allowed Stewart to sneak by on the inside, but not without rubbing the side of Hamlin’s Toyota and tapping him into the wall. Stewart then powered down Sonoma’s front stretch with Hamlin in tow before taking the checkered flag.
NASCAR drivers aren’t known for being overly cordial to each other, especially when one costs another a race win, but Hamlin and Stewart showed nothing but respect for each other post-race. In fact, Hamlin didn’t even wait until Stewart had exited his car to congratulate him, walking over to Smoke’s No. 14 Chevrolet to lay some well deserved praise on the 45-year old.
“Probably one of the best parts and one of the parts I’ll probably remember most about this race was before I got to victory lane and Denny leaning in there and the first thing he says is ‘I’m so damned proud of you.’ That meant the world to me,” Stewart said. “I mean, I told him right after that, and I said, you know ‘I had to do that’, and he goes, ‘I know.’”
You can relive the intense last lap battle by watching NASCAR’s replay above.