Reigning Miami Winner Captures First Win of 2011

Juan Pablo Montoya at Vegas

Juan Pablo Montoya's third-place finish was his first Top 5 finish at a 1.5-mile track since Atlanta in March 2010 (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, Getty Images Sport)

Carl Edwards—reigning Ford 400 Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall—returned to his winning ways in Race 3 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Having concluded the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with consecutive victories at Phoenix and Miami, Edward was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champions Jimmie Johnson this fall. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 2, but fans can lock in tickets today with just a $30 deposit. For ticket information, check out HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

In Race 3 of the 2011 campaign, Edwards used a two-tire pit stop late in the race to pass Tony Stewart en route to the win. Stewart had dominated the race—leading 163 of the 267 laps—but lost the lead when he pitted for four tires with 32 laps to go, starting green-flag stops for the rest of the field. Edwards and several other leading drivers elected to change just two tires, gaining positions on the track in the process. That decision proved to be the difference as Stewart finished second, 1.24 seconds behind Edwards.

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya was third, Marcos Ambrose fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.

“The key to winning today was my team,” Edwards said. “These guys are unbelievable. It means a lot coming off Phoenix. I went home last week and didn’t know how things were going to go. You don’t get a good race car like that often. We had another one today.”

Edwards has had competitive cars in all three races this season: He finished second in the Daytona 500 but was knocked out of last week’s race after a brush with Kyle Busch.

Stewart, who was penalized near the halfway point of the race because of an air-hose problem in his pit, said he had the car to beat. “We just gave it away,” said Stewart, who contended for the win at both Daytona (13th) and Phoenix (7th) before falling off late. “We shot ourselves in the foot two weeks in a row.”

Nevertheless, Stewart gained two positions in the point standings to move into a tie for first place with Kurt Busch. Edwards gained nine positions to third. Montoya’s podium finish puts him in fourth place in the Sprint Cup Series standings, with a Champion to be decided in Miami. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 2, but fans can lock in tickets today with just a $30 deposit. For ticket information, check out HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Montoya, whose previous best finish at Las Vegas was 19th, was led by crew chief Brian Pattie, who elected to make a couple of two-tire pit stops to help with track position: one near the beginning of the race and another near the end. The third-place finish was Montoya’s first Top 5 finish at a 1.5-mile track since Atlanta in March 2010.

“We normally run Top 10 [at Las Vegas before late-race misfortune]....but definitely a third-place finish will make us feel good going into a weekend off,” said Pattie. “We learned a lot, and it shows we’re progressing on our mile-and-a-half program.”

“We really needed a good result after last week, and it was nice to get it here,” Montoya said. “Last year when they went from the wing to the spoiler, I think it really affected me and we really struggled. We did a lot of work over the winter with the new nose to make sure that didn’t happen.”

A good sign for the Miami resident looking to be racing for the Sprint Cup Championship on his home track Nov. 20. And Homestead-Miami Speedway is now accepting deposits for NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 18-20. Lock in your tickets with just a $30 deposit per account. For ticket information, check out HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Tickets for NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale to the general public on May 2.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Bristol on Sunday, March 20 (1 p.m. ET, Fox TV)—Race 4 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20). The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 20.

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