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 today with a three-second pit stop.
Stewart, trying to become the first rookie to win since the late Davey Allison 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 in 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 knew it was probably going to be a lap-and-half gamble," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. "It turned out to be bigger than that."
"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.
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 postrace conversation.
"That's between Jeff and me," Jarrett said of their discussion.
Pole sitter Gordon conceded that he tapped Jarrett, but said little about it or earlier contact that sent Rusty Wallace into the wall.
Jarrett still 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.
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, wound up 10th.
Seven cautions covering 51 laps slowed Burton's average speed to 101.876 mph.
CAPTION: Dale Earnhardt (3) loses control early in Jiffy Lube 300 as Mike Skinner (31) and Kenny Wallace pass by. Earnhardt recovered to finish eighth.