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Monday Rundown: Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz makes winning call

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Craven: Stewart proves championship worthiness with victory (2:03)

Ricky Craven compares Tony Stewart's win at Sonoma to Kobe Bryant's iconic 60-point performance in his final game in terms of no one seeing it coming, but ultimately not being surprised when it happened. (2:03)

SONOMA, Calif. -- Tony Stewart didn't just have health concerns when he returned from a broken back eight races into the 2016 Sprint Cup season.

He had to learn a new crew chief in addition to a new aero package.

So that is one reason why Stewart defied his doctors' orders and went to the race track more than they wanted. He needed to learn about his new crew chief Mike Bugarewicz.

"I'm starting the season with a new crew chief that I hadn't worked with," Stewart said Sunday after he snapped an 84-race winless streak in capturing the Sonoma Raceway victory. "The best thing that happened was going against doctors' orders.

"They wanted me to stay at home, and going to the track and being on the pit box and having a radio on and listening to him communicate, I think it made it easier for me to learn him, but he didn't get a chance to learn me."

It didn't take Stewart long to learn about how Bugarewicz would approach his job. The former engineer for Kevin Harvick likes his preparation. Stewart wasn't surprised when Bugarewicz opted to research scenarios and setups instead of going with the rest of the team to an amusement park Saturday night.

"He won't go out, he won't go with me to dirt races and he won't go play when we took crew guys to Six Flags last night and he stayed home and did homework," Stewart said. "We all waved out the window and said bye to him and stopped, 'Hey, you forgot to give us money for the amusement park.' He pointed at me and said I was pointing at the wrong guy."

Bugarewicz had the presence of mind to have Stewart -- running 17th at the time -- pit as NASCAR talked about whether to throw the caution with about 25 laps remaining in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.

The caution came out a lap later, and Stewart ended up in the lead as the remainder of the field pitted for fresh tires. He held on to the lead for the rest of the race (except for a few turns on the last lap). It also was the first victory as a crew chief for Bugarewicz.

"We heard them talking about it, but we didn't know for sure if they'd throw it or not," Bugarewicz said. "I kind of just assumed with a rag laying on the track earlier and they threw a caution, I figured, 'Well, if there's anything similar to a rag or larger, they're going to throw the caution again.'

"It was just a chance that we took, a chance to get a win. Running 17th, finishing 17th wasn't really going to do us much good, so we had to try something."

With the win, Stewart should make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has to get to the top 30 in points and has 10 races to make up what is currently a nine-point deficit. Sure, something could happen Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, but Stewart should be able to overcome whatever happens with some decent finishes.

Bugarewicz was just thankful the gamble to pit worked in Stewart's favor.

"Track position for us I think helped our car a little bit, and then of course having a three-time champion who knew he had an opportunity today is a big thing," Bugarewicz said. "At the end of the day, we only won because of his desire and his drive and his want.

"I truly believe that with these competitors and how good all the cars are and these top-tier drivers, that's all it is. It's a matter of who wants it more at the end of the day in most cases. Today, Tony wanted it more."

Stewart believes it is Bugarewicz's preparation that can make the difference. He said the cars have improved throughout the season.

"The way we were hoping the season would start obviously was totally derailed, and you really don't know what to expect out of it," Stewart said. "But it's a learning process with him. He's doing a great job.

"He takes an approach I've never seen anybody else do. ... We flew out together maybe to California or Phoenix or something, and he was watching the entire race and writing notes down off of the previous race there."

Camping World Truck Series: NASCAR has decisions to make

NASCAR has decisions to make after the John Wes Townley-Spencer Gallagher wrestling match that followed their wreck late in the race Saturday at Gateway International Raceway.

It appeared Townley had retaliated against Gallagher for a wreck from earlier in the race. NASCAR will have to check its video, and it could issue severe penalties for retaliation, especially because it came with six laps left in the race.

And then there's the fight. NASCAR is usually lenient when it comes to drivers, but Townley got some closed-fist punches in and Gallagher, while mostly playing defense, did wrestle Townley to the ground. They did all of this on the race track,
although it appeared the red flag already had been thrown.

Tony Stewart somewhat jokingly said he will be watching to see the penalties -- maybe just to know how much fighting would cost him. Stewart obviously should know that Sprint Cup fines often are higher than fines in trucks.

"I've been waiting for this day for a long time to see how much you get fined for a fight. ... I've got a lot of scores to settle with people and I've only got six months to do it," Stewart said. "I've just got to figure out if it's economically feasible to do it, so I'm waiting to see."

While Stewart said Townley sticking up for himself was a highlight, it also was nice to see dirt-track racer Christopher Bell win as he attempts a transition to NASCAR.

"I was ecstatic to see one of our buddies Christopher Bell [win] and I was checking on my buddy Rico [Abreu] and had no idea that John Wes Townley was going to make my top-five hero list of all time," Stewart said.

Bell won the truck race at Eldora last year in just his third career start. It took him 13 more starts to get his next truck win while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"I've made a lot of mistakes and I've used up my fair share of mulligans, so I'm glad to be here," Bell said after the win.