Tony Stewart has repeatedly offered to trade his NASCAR Nextel Cup championship for just one win at his beloved Brickyard.
Now, he doesn't have to.
Stewart finally found Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the driver from nearby Columbus, Ind., wrestled the lead from Kasey Kahne with 11 laps remaining, then pulled away for an emotional victory in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
It's the win Stewart has coveted since childhood, at the place that's broken his heart so many times.
"Today has been my entire life," he said. "This is one of those days I don't want to end. I don't want the sun to set. This is the best day of my life, personally and professionally."
Stewart led three times for a total of 44 laps in the Joe Gibbs-owned No. 20 Home Depot Chevy, and won for the fourth time in six races. He also assumed the Nextel Cup championship lead from Jimmie Johnson, whose 66-point edge turned into a 75-point deficit to Stewart, the 2002 Cup champion.
Kahne finished second in the No. 9 Dodge and Brian Vickers brought the No. 25 Chevrolet home third in front of nearly 300,000 fans.
"It's great for Tony," Kahne said. "I've heard he would give up his Nextel Cup for a win at the Brickyard. If you've got to run second, it's good to run second to Tony for his first win here."
Stewart started 22nd, but steadily improved his position. He took the lead on Lap 100, but lost it to Kahne with 27 to go.
When the caution flag came out with 15 laps remaining, Stewart was faced with a decision: come in for tires or try to get around Kahne on worn ones. After debating over the two-way radio with crew chief Greg Zipadelli, he stayed out.
Stewart pulled up to Kahne's rear bumper moments after the restart on Lap 150, then overtook him in Turn 2. Stewart needed the next five laps to shake Kahne.
"You dream about something for so long you become consumed by it," Stewart said. "The good thing is next year, it's not going to be, 'What's it going to mean? How's it going feel?' We've answered all of those questions."
Stewart's win touched off a raucous celebration for everyone wearing an orange and black uniform -- and his legion of fans, who stood and roared their approval as he drove the 2.5-mile oval in reverse pumping his fist out of the window.
After getting out of his car, Stewart, 34 years old and carrying a little more weight in the midsection than he did in his younger days, joined his pit crew in climbing the chain link catch fence along the front straightaway and waved to the crowd.
Stewart then knelt for the traditional kissing of the bricks that distinguish the start-finish line here as the crowd chanted "Tony! Tony!"
"I just want to congratulate the entire Home Depot team," Gibbs said in a statement released by the Washington Redskins. "It has been a dream for Tony Stewart his whole life to win at the racetrack. We couldn't be happier."
Stewart's memories at Indianapolis hadn't been happy ones. He had put himself in contention on several occasions, in both an IndyCar and stock car, only to suffer crushing disappointment, time and again. In 2002, a frustrated Stewart punched a photographer, easily the lowlight of his career.
"This hasn't even set in yet, being part of Tony's first win here," Zipadelli said.
A tough weekend for Johnson only got tougher. He started from the second-to-last position after his car failed pre-qualifying inspection twice. Johnson wound up 38th after a blown right front tire sent the No. 48 Lowe's Chevy hard into the outside retaining wall.
"Man, that was hard," Johnson said before being transported to Methodist Hospital for precautionary evaluation and was later released. "That's by far the hardest hit I've taken. I'll be scratching my head for the next day or two."
Fan favorites Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both needed to finish up front, if not win, Sunday to remain in the hunt for a spot in the 'Chase for the Championship,' the playoff system NASCAR uses to determine its champion.
Earnhardt's championship hopes all but ended when he was involved in a five-car wreck on a Lap 63 restart. He appeared to be rear-ended by Mike Skinner, which caused the No. 8 Chevy to spin head first into the inside wall. He finished last in a field of 43 cars.
"Everybody took off then everybody stopped and when I stopped, I got ran into. I don't think Skinner knew what was going on," Earnhardt said moments after the incident.
Gordon finished eighth and moved up to 14th in the points while Earnhardt slid two spots to 16th.
If one or both fail to make the cut, it could deal a blow to the interest surrounding the series' final 10 races. Only the top 10 drivers (or those within 400 points of the leader) qualify for the chase, which begins five races from now.
Elliott Sadler, meantime, appeared to have the car to beat during qualifying on Saturday, when he drove his Ford to the pole position. He hung around the top 10 for most of the race before a cut tire late sent him to a 32nd-place finish.
"I feel like the pressure is on everyone else to catch up to us right now," Stewart said. "We're a contender again."