Carl Edwards thought he should have opened the season with two wins, and the disappointment of missing Victory Lane was with him at 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 caused 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, when most everyone else took two, and his longer pit stop left him too far back in the field to make it back to the front.
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Edwards pulled away for the win, while Stewart 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 13th. He then led 59 laps last week in Phoenix, only to finish seventh. Although he moved him into the lead of the Sprint Cup Series standings, he didn’t 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 his list of 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 thought he had the car to beat last weekend at Phoenix. But he was wrecked early in the race by Kyle Busch, and he couldn’t shake the disappointment.
“It means a lot coming off of Phoenix,” 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. Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne finished 14th.
LOEB WINS RALLY
Sebastien Loeb of France beat Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen to win the Mexican Rally for the fifth time.
Loeb, a seven-time world champion, moved into first when Citroen teammate Sebastien Ogier crashed in the first of the final day’s three stages. Ogier had led after the opening two days.
Loeb finished 1 minute, 38 seconds ahead of Hirvonen.