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Las Vegas was all Tony Stewart....until the very end

  At the finish line, Carl Edwards, not Tony Stewart (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   (Updated/With Results)

   By Mike Mulhern


   The fastest car on the track was only good enough for second place.
   And Tony Stewart, who dominated Sunday's Las Vegas 400 and was all but untouchable, even after a rear-of-the-pack restart penalty, wasn't very happy, even though leaving Vegas with the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead.
   But Carl Edwards,who dogged Stewart much of the day – a day marred by too many right-front tire problems and hard crashes – played that last pit stop gamble successfully: and Edwards' two-tire green flag stop trumped Stewart's four-tire stop over the final miles.

    "Man, it's cool – you dream, as a kid, of coming to Vegas, with a bunch of women, in your private plane – and I did, with my my wife and my mom and my daughter," Edwards said gleefully, after his victory backflip, at the end of a surprisingly clean and relatively uneventful race.
    "The Fords are back, and they're strong. And this is the best start to a season I've ever had."
   Team owner Jack Roush agreed: "Our cars have never run better. I'm anxious to see how the season unfolds."
   Indeed Edwards could easily have five straight Sprint Cup tour wins now.
    Edwards, though, was in Stewart's dust most of the warm afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
   And Stewart was almost disconsolate at the loss.
    "I'm real disappointed. We had the car to beat, just gave it away," said Stewart, who led the most laps. "Had a miscue on the pit stop, and had to go to the rear of the field (for the restart). Darien (Grubb, his crew chief) made a good call to get us back track position….but we showed everybody else they could do it (run on just a change of right-sides). Shot ourselves in the foot with that.
   "And we couldn't make a long two-stop run on left-side tires….."
   So Stewart had to make a four-tire stop at the end, with 50 miles to go, while Edwards was able to take just two right-sides. That gave Edwards the lead, and he never yielded, finishing a second and a half ahead of Stewart.
   Three races now, Daytona, Phoenix and here, and Stewart has been in position to win in the final miles. But that was no solace.
   "It just kills me to throw a win away like that," Stewart said.
   "That was really a gift for us, for him to get that penalty," Edwards said. "And he had to take four at the end….that might have been the difference.
   "Tony's car was just spectacular. Even after we got the lead, I was thinking 'We'll be seeing Tony again pretty quickly.'"
   "Tony surprised me," Roush said. "But what worried me was that we've been so good on these 1-1/2-mile tracks, and spent so much time testing for  the other tracks, that we might have lost our edge here. But it looks like it's still there."

                                     The results of Sunday's Las Vegas Kobalt Tools 400


   Tony Stewart. He had the car to beat at Las Vegas....but a pit road miscue proved costly (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




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