Las Vegas Payday for Stewart

Tony Stewart

Stewart celebrates his 45th career win. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Tony Stewart held off Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps to score his first career win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400.

Stewart scored his 45th career Sprint Cup Series victory on Sunday as well as his first at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The defending Sprint Cup Series champion has won at every track on the schedule except Darlington Raceway and Kentucky Speedway.

"Man, I'm just finally glad to win one here," said Stewart. "We were so close last year and had a dominant car.

"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.”

The win was redemption for Stewart who led 163 laps a year ago but gave up victory after a late race pit road miscue.

On Sunday he used aggressive restarts to cross Vegas off his list of tracks where he’d never won and gave new crew chief Steve Addington his first victory as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing.

"Every time the caution came out, I'm like ‘Not again,’" Stewart said. "You wonder how many times you’re going to give them a chance at it on a restart there, and when are they’re going to be able to capitalize on us.

"But, that was our strong suit today. We were really strong on the restarts. Just proud of the Hendrick engine department; making great steam with it. That was the key to our restarts was the power that we had. We could go without spinning the tires, and we could get a really good lead into Turn 1 and just haul butt down the backstretch."

The day’s final restart came with four laps to go and Stewart got the jump on Johnson never looking back on his way to the win.

“Yeah, I mean, we've worked so hard over the off-season to put speed in our cars, make them comfortable and consistent so I can get in there and not be on edge while driving it,” Johnson said.

“We've achieved that goal. We did some early testing in Nashville, and somewhere else, too. Disney World. Early testing this year, we saw that we had a better product. That's had me very excited.”

Meanwhile back in the pack Matt Kenseth got caught up in a tangle with Kasey Kahne as well as Roush Fenway Racing teammates carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. He slammed the backstretch wall but NASCAR kept the green flag out and Stewart outraced Johnson to the checkered flag.

“Carl (Edwards) just laid back and got by me three-wide and then it just didn’t seem like there was a lot of room getting into one,” said Kenseth. “And then I did get clear behind him and he just stopped in the middle of the corner. “I don’t really know what happened.”

Greg Biffle finished behind Stewart and Johnson and has three straight third place finishes to start the season.

“I was just holding my line because I didn’t know if Matt was above me and I don’t know what happened,” said Biffle of the closing laps scuffle. “I don’t know if the 17 wrecked or had a problem or anything. I hope I didn’t run him up high. It didn’t appear he was out there, so hopefully I didn’t.”

Stewart’s SHR teammate Ryan Newman was fourth with defending race winner Carl Edwards rounding out the first five finishers.

Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top ten.

Brad Keselowski made a late run to steal the win away when he elected to stay out on a late round of pit stops and not get fresh tires. He battled Stewart for the lead until a fuel pickup problem, the same issue that knocked out teammate AJ Allmendinger, sent him out of the race.

“We had a pretty decent Dodge Charger all day, probably not as good as Tony’s but really strong,” said Keselowski who finished 32nd. “We were going to give him a run for his money and I was going to drive my butt off. It just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t run out of gas. The fuel pump broke.”

Earnhardt led 70 of the first 73 laps including the opening 43 of the race for a total more than he was in front for the entire 2011 season.

Biffle is now the series point leader by ten over Kevin Harvick with Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth the top five.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Food City 500.

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