LAS VEGAS, NV (Sports Network) – Carl Edwards shrugged off last week’s disappointing finish in Phoenix by hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas.
Edwards benefited from Tony Stewart’s pit-road mishap to win Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Stewart dominated most of the race, but the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion was hit with a penalty for a piece of equipment (air wrench) that escaped his pit stall area during his stop just past the half-way point. Stewart’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, gambled with a two-tire change only on the following round of stops, which put Stewart back in the lead.
But Stewart relinquished the top spot again during a round of stops in the closing laps when he had to put on four fresh tires, while most drivers, including Edwards, took two. Stewart passed Juan Pablo Montoya a few laps away from the finish to take second.
“I honestly thought we had the car to beat today, but we just gave it away,” a disappointed Stewart said. “I don’t know what happened on the pit stop there, but we had a miscue and had a penalty and had to go to the back. Unfortunately it kind of dealt our cards for us. Darian made a good call getting us the track position back, but it also showed everybody else that they could do it too, and we couldn’t run two and a half runs on a set of left-side tires.”
Stewart led 163 of 267 laps.
Edwards took the lead for the second and final time with 23 laps remaining and then crossed the finish line 1.25 seconds ahead of Stewart for his second win at Las Vegas and the 19th of his Sprint Cup career. His first victory here came in 2008.
Last Sunday at Phoenix, Edwards started on the pole and was a strong contender to win, but Kyle Busch bumped into Edwards and sent him into the wall in the early-going, ruining his chance of a victory there.
Edwards finished 28th at Phoenix and was furious with Busch until both drivers discussed the incident when they arrived at Las Vegas.
“I thought a lot about Phoenix this week, just because of how great our car was,” Edwards said. “You just don’t get cars like that very often. [Team owner] Jack [Roush] and I actually talked about it a little bit, and he said, ‘Don’t expect that at Vegas; you’ve got to just go there and take what you can get.’ So this is a true gift.”
While Busch finished second at Phoenix, his day at Las Vegas came to end early when he first cut his right-front tire and made contact with the wall. Busch suffered engine failure shortly after, as flames came out from the rear of his car.
“It’s really unfortunate, because we had a great race car,” said Busch, who finished 38th and gave up the points lead following the third race of the season.
Edwards dedicated his Las Vegas win to the pilots and crew members of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, which are based across from the 1.5-mile track at Nellis Air Force Base. On Thursday, Edwards flew with the air demonstration squadron. The group of six F-16 jet fighters did a flyover prior to the start of the race.
“I’m really excited for our whole team to give that trophy to those guys over there at [Nellis] Air Force Base,” he said. “They were inspiring to get to hang around with on Thursday morning.”
Montoya took the third spot, while Marcos Ambrose and Ryan Newman, who is Stewart’s teammate, rounded out the top-five.
Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
Kyle Busch was one of several drivers who suffered a blown right-front tire and crashed. Jeff Gordon, who snapped a 66-race winless streak at Phoenix, cut his tire and slammed hard into the wall for the seventh and final caution with 72 laps remaining.
“I’m glad I had a SAFER barrier to hit and a safe race car,” Gordon said.
Gordon finished 36th. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending series champion, dealt with an ill-handling car and fell one lap behind in the first half. But Johnson rebounded for a 16th-place run.
Despite his misfortune at Las Vegas, Stewart shares the points lead with Kurt Busch. Edwards and Montoya are each seven points behind the leaders.
The series takes next weekend off before returning to action on March 20 at Bristol, TN.