[media-credit id=22 align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]Last year, Stewart dominated and came close to winning, but found himself at the bad end of a penalty late in the race. This year, he dominated once again and was able to close the deal, holding Jimmie Johnson off coming to the checkered flag.
“I don’t know if we had the dominate car today, but we were so strong on the restarts,” he says. “I had to go. I knew that when Matt and Greg had better tires than us, I knew we’d be able to hold them off for a little bit. I didn’t know we could hold them off till the end.”
The win marks the first for Stewart at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, now leaving him with only two tracks on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule he hasn’t won at – Darlington and Kentucky. It also marks the first win for Stewart with new crew chief Steve Addington.
“We talked three times before the race,” Stewart says of Addington. “He is very thorough with us, he explains the changes, he wants your input. He’s been very good at getting to know these guys.”
Addington says that for him, it allowed him to take a lot of pressure off of himself.
“He kept telling me to relax and have fun and we’re going to win our races,” he says. “But I take it very personal every time that race goes on the track. I put more on than I thought I would with them winning the championship, for me. Everybody at Stewart-Haas has been great, doing what I asked, asking me what I wanted done. It’s just been about me putting pressure on myself.”
With 34 laps to go, Stewart made a daring three-wide pass on the restart to get by Brad Keselowski and take the lead. Stewart would lose the lead after coming down pit road for a splash of gas, but was able to get the lead back with on a later restart with 17 laps to go. He never looked back, holding on to the lead through the final two restarts.
“That’s what made today special,” he says. “We didn’t have to hold off the challenge once; we had to hold them off multiple times. It makes me feel like I’ve earned my keep.”
Jimmie Johnson came home second after having to start at the back of the field with a back-up car due to a wreck in practice.
“With everything we went through this weekend, we’ll take it,” he says. “But man, I want to win. We had a little more speed, but tony could get away on the restarts and through the gears. We’ll have to see what we’re doing, what I’m doing wrong.”
Greg Biffle would score a third place finish after making his way through the Roush-Fenway scramble on the backstretch after the restart. On the restart, Matt Kenseth spun the tires, which caused Carl Edwards to make a move on the inside of Matt on the apron to make it three wide. The group made it through turn one, before Kenseth made contact with Kasey Kahne, causing him to get into the wall.
“I just got down in there, Carl was on the top digging,” Biffle says. “I was just trying to ease up, giving him room – I didn’t see what happened back there.”
“Matt spun his tires just a little bit on the restart,” Edwards explains. “I went down on the apron, he gave us a lot of room. We just got all bunched up back there.”
“Carl just laid back and got by me three-wide,” Kenseth says. “They got by me through the middle of the corner and then they just got up in front of me and stopped.”
Ryan Newman finished fourth, followed by Edwards. Clint Bowyer finished sixth, followed by Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would round out of top 10 after leading the first 40 laps of the race.
“The racecar was really tight,” Earnhardt Jr. says. “I knew by the end of the race, it was going to be a really, really tight race track and we needed to free the car up. I didn’t give Stevie enough information throughout the day to tell him how tight it was. I didn’t keep up my end and gave up a lot of spots at the end of the race.”
Pole sitter Kasey Kahne finished 19th after struggling with the handling of the car during the second half of the race.
Greg Biffle now leads the points, 10 points over Kevin Harvick. Denny Hamlin sits third in points, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Kobalt Tools 400, Las Vegas Motor Speedway|
|10||–||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||35|
|17||–||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||27|
|40||–||26||Josh Wise *||Ford||4|