While the calendar year is 2011, it sure had shades to to 1990 - well, that's if you thought musically in terms of NASCAR's hottest driver.

As Tony! Toni! Toné! once sang in their 1990 hit song "Feels Good," it's safe to say that Tony Stewart has "done it again," a feat that last occured in 2008.

After a season which was frankly pedestrian for the 40-year-old's standards, it's suddenly become about winning, as Stewart captured Sunday's running of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Even for a 41-time points-paying race winner, it's been a surprising turn of events.

"You don't see it coming," said Stewart per AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston's article.

Perhaps nobody saw it coming, but as far as the two-time series champion was concerned (given his track history at Loudon), it shouldn't have been too much of a shocker, even as he bested fellow Chase rival Brad Keselowski to the stripe.

After all, teammate Ryan Newman captured the July event while Stewart came home second that humid afternoon. 

On the Sprint Cup Series' return to "The Magic Mile," it was Smoke who certainly fired and fumed his way to the win, which vaulted him to the points lead.

His back-to-back victories marked the first time a driver has started a Chase in successful fashion since Greg Biffle's title campaign in 2008, when he captured the checkered flag at Loudon and Dover that year.

Still, Stewart knows eight races is still a long ways to go before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

"Got eight long weeks still, man," said Stewart. "It’s way too early to start counting chickens."

Once again, the race was decided by fuel mileage, with Chasers being impacted greatly, which shuffled the points standings greatly.

While Stewart benefited the most from his successful Sunday afternoon, others like Jeff Gordon, MattKenseth, and Kyle Busch also stepped it up.

Gordon led the most laps on Sunday, pacing the field 78 times before relegating to a fourth-place finish while Kenseth finished a quiet sixth. Busch came home in 11th, which was far more successful than some of the sport's top contenders.

Although Carl Edwards produced a steady eighth place result, Kevin Harvick placed 12th while HendrickMotorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson finished 17th and 18th respectively.

For Harvick, Earnhardt, and Johnson, it wasn't indicative of the performances they had leading up to the dramatic, fuel economy finish. But as the saying goes, it's not how you start (or perform), but how you finish.

Notable Chasers Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Denny Hamlin finished 22nd, 25th, and 29th, which cost them greatly in the points race for the Cup title. Especially for the No. 11 team, another poor result has dug them in a very deep hole.

"We’re just figuring out what we need to do to be a little bit more competitive," Hamlin said.

Until then, Stewart's got everyone's numbers thus far, and it could very well be competitive enough to deliver a third driver's championship and the first overall for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The challenge heightens for the 12-driver championship field as the Cup circuit hits up the high banks of Dover International Speedway for next Sunday's running of the AAA 400 (Live at 2 PM EST on ESPN).

Jimmie Johnson hopes to snap out of his slow start to his title defense by duplicating his victory last year at "The Monster Mile" while the Busch brothers in Kyle and Kurt hope to close in on their competition.

Here's a look at the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship standings heading into next Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, with drivers' teams, manufacturers, and wins (if applicable) are listed in the parentheses:

  1. Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas/Chevy/2 wins)
  2. Kevin Harvick (Childress/Chevy/4 wins)
  3. Brad Keselowski (Penske/Dodge/3 wins)
  4. Carl Edwards (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
  5. Jeff Gordon (Hendrick/Chevy/3 wins)
  6. Kyle Busch (Gibbs/Toyota/4 wins)
  7. Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway/Ford/2 wins)
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick/Chevy)
  9. Kurt Busch (Penske/Dodge/1 win)
  10. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick/Chevy/1 win)
  11. Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas/Chevy/1 win)
  12. Denny Hamlin (Gibbs/Toyota/1 win)

[Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports]