LAS VEGAS – Carl Edwards believed he should have opened the season with two wins, and the disappointment of missing Victory Lane carried with him into Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When he finally broke through Sunday, it came at the expense of Tony Stewart. Stewart led a race-high 163 laps, but a pit road penalty forced his team to change its strategy. When he used two tires to get back to the lead, the entire field saw that it worked, and Stewart was backed into a corner.
He had to take four tires on his final stop, most everyone else took two, and the longer time spent on pit road shuffled him too far back into the field to make it back to the front.
Edwards pulled away for the win, while Stewart, who dropped to 22nd after the four-tire stop, unwittingly settled for second.
“We had the fastest thing on the planet today and we just gave it away,” Stewart said. “It kills me to throw away a race like that.”
Stewart was in second place on the final restart of the Daytona 500, but faded to a 13th-place finish. He then led 59 laps last week in Phoenix, only to finish seventh. Although Sunday’s run moved him into the lead of the Sprint Cup Series standings, he was unable to take much solace in knowing he had cars capable of winning the first three races of the season.
“That’s not in my makeup,” said Stewart, who was trying to cross Las Vegas off the list of only two active tracks where he’s yet to win a Cup race.
“This was a big deal today, and when you lead that many laps and have a car that’s that fast and you lose it — I’m sure tomorrow when the emotion dies down we’ll look back and say it was a great weekend, but just, man, it does not sit good right now.”
Edwards knows exactly how Stewart felt. He finished second in the Daytona 500, then believed he had the car to beat last weekend at Phoenix. But he was wrecked early in the race by Kyle Busch, and he simply could not shake the disappointment of losing such a great car.
“It means a lot coming off of Phoenix. I went home last week and I had no clue, I just didn’t know how things were going to go from there,” he said. “You don’t get a good race car like that very often, but we had another one today.”
Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and was followed by Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. Denny Hamlin was seventh, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers rounded out the top 10.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)