Edwards Holds Off Stewart To Win Las Vegas
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Carl Edwards took the lead during a final round of green flag pit stops with about 30 laps to go, held off a resilient Tony Stewart and won the Kobalt Tools 400 Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The victory was the third in the last five races for the Missouri driver as Edwards won the last two races of the 2010 season in his Ford Fusion.
It was his second victory at the Las Vegas 1.5-mile oval.
Stewart finished second, 1.2 seconds back in his Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, and Juan Pablo Montoya was third in an Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevy.
“The key to winning today was my team, my Ford team,” Edwards said. “These guys are unbelievable. Roush Fenway is great. I have to thank Aflac for being with us, Scotts and Kellog’s. Scotts easy seed you can grow grass anywhere with that stuff. Sprint, Subway all the fans.
“It is unreal. When you are a kid you dream about this and how cool it would be to go to Vegas and fly a bunch of women there in a private plane and race cars and I did it. I brought my mom, my mother-in-law and my daughter and we came here and raced and I am having a blast.”
The victory comes one week after Edwards suffered a major disappointment in the race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards won the pole for that race and appeared to have a car which was more than fast enough to get the victory. Early in the race, however, he was forced into the infield grass and the car was torn up.
“Yeah, it means a lot coming off of Phoenix,” Edwards, who won for the 19th time in Cup and gave Roush Fenway Racing its 121st victory, said. “I went home last week and I had no clue. I just didn’t know how things were going to go from there. You only don’t get a good race car like that very often, but we had another one today.”
Marcos Ambrose was fourth, Ryan Newman was fifth and Martin Truex Jr. sixth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers.
Stewart led a race-best 163 laps and had a shot at victory by overcoming a major screwup in the pits with a great decision in the pits.
The screwup came on lap 150 of the 267-lap race when he left the pits with an air gun attached to his car and the air hose trailing behind. That resulted in a penalty which appeared to have killed his shot.
But on during a subsequent pit stop – which was called during a caution called with 73 laps to go – Stewart’s team opted to take just two tires while others near the front of the field took four.
He took the lead and held it to the final pit stop when Edwards took over after taking just two tires to Stewart’s four. Stewart emerged third from the pits, moved to second and was closing for the lead when the race ended.
The big comeback did not make for a happy Stewart.
“Second sucks,” he said.
Ambrose, on the other hand, was pleased.
“It was a great day,” the Richard Petty Motorsports driver said. “It was a great first top-five for RPM. I have to thank Richard Petty for believeing in me and giving me a shot and Stanley and everybody. It is going to be a great year. We had great pit stops and a good crew today. There was a ton of good energy out here today, just a ton of good energy. I am really happy with the finish.”
Cars that looked like good pre-race bets started falling to problems by the bunch once the race started.
Matt Kenseth, the polesitter, blew a tire on lap 15 and fell a lap down. He would spend much of the
rest of the race trying to get back onto the lead lap.
“We just had some issues that got us behind a lap and three-quarters,” Kenseth, Edwards’ teammate, said. “The way the race went and the way our car was in traffic we weren’t as close as we wanted to be and couldn’t get the lap back. Finally we got it back with 70 to go and couldn’t do any better than what we did there.”
Kurt Busch, running as high as second and second in points when the race started, spun without assistance on lap 102. He would come back and race with the front-runners.
“On a restart, I got too racy,” Busch, who has yet to win a Cup race in his hometown of Las Vegas, said. “I wanted the lead and get the bonus point and you can’t do that. You have to race your race, let the race come to you. I was a little loose, had some rear brake in it, Montoya was close and I spun it around. The Pennzoil Ultra Dodge Charger had a great run today. I appreciate my crew for giving me a great car. We’re right up were we need to be in points (currently tied for first) and really excited about today’s finish.”
Kyle Busch, the series points leader when the race started, had an engine go up in flames on lap 108.
Greg Biffle who led 11 laps and was very fast, had pitting problems. About half way through the race, his fuel man failed to get the cell filled to capacity and on lap 147, Biffle ran out of fuel under green. He was running third at the time.
On lap 149, David Gilliland, 10th in points at the start of the race, blew a tire and wrecked.
“We just blew a right front tire and we hadn’t had any tire issues all day,” he said. “For some reason we just blew out. We didn’t have any signs of it at all. It is a tough day for our Taco Bell Ford Fusion. I don’t think we have seen a whole lot of tire issues through the weekend. That last lap we ran on the race track was as fast as we had run. We didn’t see anything unusually. It just blew out.”
Jeff Gordon, who won the race at Phoenix International Raceway a week ago, blew a tire and slammed the wall with 73 laps to go. The wreck knocked him out of the race.One Comment