Two–time Kansas Speedway winner Tony Stewart took a huge gamble at the end of the 2011 season, despite winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship the Stewart-Haas owner/driver parted ways with his crew chief who helped him win five of the final 10 races of the season.
Stewart may have questioned his decision after his former crew chief Darian Grubb took his new driver, Denny Hamlin to victory lane in only their second race together at Phoenix.
But he didn’t have to question his decision for long, when the off-season gamble paid off in Vegas this past weekend as the three-time Sprint Cup champion proved that he and new crew chief Steve Addington can get the job done. Stewart dominated the race, leading 127 of the 267 lap race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I was really happy for Darian last week to get that Phoenix win,” said Stewart. “I know it was a tough scenario for us to part ways at the end of the year. It was neat to see him and Denny get a win last week. It’s neat to see me and Steve get a win this week.”
Stewart held off 2011 Hollywood Casino 400 winner Jimmie Johnson for the win, while Greg Biffle finished third for the third consecutive week and Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.
Kansas’ own Clint Bowyer was the highest finishing Toyota driver at Vegas, posting a sixth-place finish after a late race gamble where he didn’t pit for fuel with 34 laps remaining, and Missouri driver Jamie McMurray finished eighth.
Biffle is the points leader going into Bristol with Kevin Harvick 10 points behind; Hamlin is third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.
On Saturday, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the first non-Cup driver to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race in the last 15 years at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Only two non-Cup drivers have won in the track’s 16 Nationwide Series races, Jeff Green in 1997 and Stenhouse on Saturday.
Stenhouse held off Mark Martin for the victory, while Elliott Sadler finished third, Trevor Bayne fourth and Brendan Gaughan fifth.
Sadler leads the point standings by 15 points over rookie Austin Dillon, while defending Nationwide Series champion Stenhouse is third and Bayne and Cole Whitt round out the top five.
Fans will have the opportunity to see the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway with the STP 400 on April 22 and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on April 21. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting www.kansasspeedway.com or by calling 866.460.RACE (7223).