SMOKE HITS IT BIG AT VEGAS

Junior Runs Well at Vegas

NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr rocketed to the lead early and stayed there for most of the opening 50 laps. Earnhardt dominated the early action and led 70 laps during the race (photo courtesy: Jeff Bottari, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart checked another track off his racing "bucket list" by smoking the field at Las Vegas. The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion won for the 45th time in his brilliant career and did so for the first time at Las Vegas. Stewart has won six of the 13 most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races – including last year’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway - and he has now won at every Sprint Cup track other than Darlington Raceway and Kentucky. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

“Today, it was big for me to win a race at a track where I had not won and great for Steve [Addington] to win his first race with us,” said Stewart.

Leading 127 of the 267 laps. Stewart was the class of the field, although challenged at the end by Jimmie Johnson, who came from last to finish second.

“We may not have had the fastest car but we were strong on restarts,” Stewart said. During the series of late-race restarts, the driver of the No. 14 car was masterful, especially one of them where he zipped to the lead from third in the first turn of the restart, thrilling the large crowd and the national television audience.

NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. rocketed to the lead early and stayed there for most of the opening 50 laps. Earnhardt dominated the early action and in total, he led 70 laps. Johnson and Matt Kenseth led with strong cars, but it was Stewart who seemed to have the strongest car.

"Well, we didn't keep up with the race track. The car was really fast at the start of the race. The track got really tight on us at the end of the race,” said Earnhardt Jr. “This is a tough series. When you get back in traffic, it gets very competitive. Congratulations to Tony (Stewart race winner) and his team. We'll be at it in Bristol, trying to get another one."

Drivers such as Greg Biffle, Johnson and Brad Keselowski all tried to get by Stewart’s No. 14 Chevy, all to no avail as Stewart’s car was stout. Crossing the line behind Stewart included the cars of Johnson, Biffle, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards.

Biffle’s latest third place run is his third of the year and catapults him into the top spot by 10 points over Kevin Harvick and a dozen over Denny Hamlin. The Championship Points standings have Biffle in the lead with 125, Harvick second with 115, Hamlin third with 113, Earnhardt fourth with 107 and Kenseth and Edwards tied for fifth with 102. Stewart trails in seventh with 100 points and Johnson holds down 23rd with 61 markers.

Said Biffle about his strong run in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, “We are a little disappointed, as we were faster last year. It was clear the Nos. 14 and 48 were faster. We had a top-five car, and we finished third. My car wouldn’t turn in and that may have made the difference. We want to win; we have got to keep our heads down.”

On the last restart, the three Roush-Fenway Ford drivers were running together with Biffle, Kenseth and Edwards battling for position. With these three and others bunched together, Kenseth got shuffled out of position, grazing the wall and dropping to 22nd at the finish. Among others, he made contact with fast qualifier Kasey Kahne.

Stated Edwards, “No. 17 spun his tires, and we got the benefit of it.” Kenseth admitted he didn’t know what happened, except that Edwards got past him in Race 3 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Bristol on Sunday, March 18 (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox TV)—Race 4 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

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