SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The 14th Brickyard 400

By the time Tony Stewart is done partying, there may be no Schlitz left in Columbus, Ind.   That is his brew of choice, and Stewart, who can find it cold for $8 a case in his hometown, found renewed reason to consume it late Sunday afternoon. He won a riveting battle with Kevin Harvick with 10 laps left in the 14th Brickyard 400, finally passing Harvick for good in Turn 3 after passing him in the first turn and getting passed in return in Turn 2.   Harvick had nothing left after that. Stewart had plenty in reserve and pulled away to a 2.982-second victory over eventual runner-up Juan Pablo Montoya to capture his favorite race for the second time.   Two years ago, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne for the lead with 10 laps to go, admitting Sunday that the 2005 victory and all that went with it “was a life-or-death situation,” so desperate was Stewart to triumph at the Brickyard. This time, the feeling was less pressurized but as heartfelt.   “That’s why I’ll enjoy this one more than the last one,” Stewart said. “All I wanted to do was get to the white flag. I knew I had a big enough lead (that) I could make four big corners and lose a second and not even get close to getting passed.   “I got a chance to see the crowd (on the final lap). Seeing those people cheer that last lap, that’s what makes it so special here vs. anywhere else you go. They’re cheering that last lap like, ‘This is yours, this is yours, all you’ve got to do is get around one more time and we all celebrate.’ ”   The duel with Harvick over a stretch of 45 laps was the best prolonged racing in the Brickyard 400 since the race started in 1994, and it more than made up for the first third of the race, when there were five accidents involving 16 cars.   What was becoming the Junkyard 400 finally evolved into a taut contest, Harvick and Stewart the stars, and Montoya, third-place finisher Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, who ran a threatening fourth, in the supporting cast.   Stewart passed Harvick for the lead on the 111th lap. After a pit reshuffle, Stewart reassumed the lead on the 128th lap. Harvick grabbed it back on the restart on lap 141, after a short caution period, edging past Stewart by going low in Turn 2.   Stewart settled into a short, impatient holding pattern, looking for an opening, sticking the nose of his Joe Gibbs Racing-prepared Chevrolet under Harvick’s Richard Childress Racing machine of the same make. Twice, Stewart tried to pass in Turn 3, then dropped back, unable to make a move stick.   “It was a matter of trying to get the timing right, get the runs right, get a good run on him down the straightaway,” Stewart said. “Kevin was really smart and changed how he was driving Turn 2. I had to do something different.”   On lap 151, Stewart did, cutting to the inside after drafting Harvick down the front straightaway and passing Harvick in Turn 1.   “I got up to him, and he got tight, I guess,” Stewart said. “I got too close to him, ran into him in the short chute.”   Harvick came back and regained the advantage by going low in Turn 2 but rode up to the high side of the track at the exit.   “It was really cool, almost a slide job, him getting back underneath me,” said Stewart, recalling his dirt-track roots. “It was a drag race down the backstretch.”   Stewart forced his way to the front in Turn 3 and stayed in front thereafter, much to the delight of his fellow Hoosiers in the crowd of about 210,000 spectators.   “It was just good racing until I got the left front fender caved in (by Stewart’s tap),” Harvick said. “He didn’t give us quite enough room.”   “That wasn’t my intention,” Stewart said. “I didn’t have to do that. That could have cut a tire down. That was a mistake on my part. If I would have done it the wrong way, it would have ruined winning it.”   Stewart started 14th and had climbed to sixth place after only 10 miles. He was in fourth 12 laps into the race and never was out of the top four at any 10-lap increment thereafter.   “Nobody had anything for Tony today,” Gordon said. “He was strong, made some aggressive moves and won the race.”   Montoya, who started and finished second, was closing at the end after climbing from fourth with 20 laps to go, but he couldn’t mount a final charge. He needed Stewart and Harvick to do more than trade paint.   “Keep going, they’re going to keep hitting each other,” Montoya was told by crew chief Donnie Wingo. Montoya did as he was told, but said, “The only way to beat Tony was that way. He was too fast.”   Others saw their chances fade away. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his engine blow with 24 laps to go. Denny Hamlin, a surprise threat, had been eliminated by a 68-second pit stop seven laps earlier. And defending champion Jimmie Johnson was doing fine until his left front tire blew, ending his day with a hard smash into the Turn 3 wall 61 laps into the race.   That was reminiscent of his crash a fortnight earlier at Chicagoland Speedway. And Stewart’s victory was also a familiar site. He’d broken a 20-race losing streak by capturing the USG Sheetrock 400.   Winning two in a row, the seventh time he’s done so in Winston/Nextel Cup racing, proves the momentum he said he had after winning in Joliet wasn’t a figment of his imagination. Or the Schlitz.   More racing coverage is at www.dailysouthtown.com/sports