Smoke Rises in Las Vegas: Tony Stewart Wins Kobalt Tools 400

March 11, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) celebrates in victory lane after winning the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

2011 was mainly a roller coaster for Tony Stewart.  During the 2011 regular season, Stewart did not have quality finishes at all.  Even after Michigan, Stewart said that the #14 wasn’t deserving of a chase spot.  He made the chase by the tips of his finger-nails, dominated the Chase with 5 wins, and took the 2011 Sprint Cup Series title.   Lets fast forward to 2012.

Tony Stewarts’ 2012 season started off on the wrong foot.  He wrecked near the closing stages of the Daytona 500, and then has problems kickstarting his car because of the new Electronic Fuel Injection system in the cars.   Coming into Las Vegas, Stewart needed a good finish in order to avoid starting the season struggling once again.

Fortunately for Tony Stewart, Las Vegas was just what he needed in order to get his season back on the right track.  Stewart led 3 times for 124 laps, and went on to win the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas.

“Man, I’m just finally glad to win one here”.  Tony Stewart said after the victory.  ”I’m not sure we had the dominant car, but we had an awful fast Chevy. Just glad to finally, finally get one at Vegas.”

Jimmie Johnson was Tony Stewart’s lone competitor at the finish, however Johnson just didn’t have the grip to make it stick on the high side.  ”My only chance was to be at his outside through 1 and 2. Didn’t have that opportunity. He had the lane at that point. I drove my guts out, but just didn’t get it done.”

Johnson heads into Bristol with some uncertainty.  With the appeal of the suspension of Chad Kanus being heard tommorrow, Johnson will probably have a new crew chief for probably the next month, and will still have some points lost after illegal modifications were found on his #48 car during opening day inspections at Daytona.

One popular face that race fans saw alot of during the race was Dale Earnhardt Jr.  To alot of people’s surprise, Earnhardt Jr had a very fast car.  Out of the gate, Junior led the field for 70 laps during the race.  He led more laps during the Kobalt Tools 400 then all of last season (Jr led for 56 laps in 2011).  After leading those laps, Earnhardt’s machine never got back the grip he had during the opening stages of the race and would finish 10th.  ”We didn’t keep up with the race track”.  Earnhardt Jr said.

“The car was really fast at the start of the race. I didn’t give that information to Steve [Letarte]. I don’t think I gave him a good enough understanding of where our race car was, even though it was really fast. The track got really tight on us at the end of the race — something that I should have had a handle on and should have known better and should have not let happen.

Greg Biffle is continuing to have have a great season with another top-5 finish at Las Vegas.  Greg Biffle got his third straight top-3 finish.  With another 3rd place finish, Biffle now leads the points going into Thunder Valley next weekend.

Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-5.  Newman’s race car was more of a top-10 car, but was running up in the top-10 for most of the race.  Carl Edward’s day was exactly the same way as Newman’s.  Great race for both Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing.

Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, and Dale Earnhardt Jr rounded out the top-10 at the Kobalt Tools 400.  Trevor Bayne got his first top-10 finish since last February’s Daytona 500 victory.

For the results of Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas, GO HERE.

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