Quick work and a strategic call to take two tires during a late-race green-flag pit stop by the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing crew powered Carl Edwards to his 19th career Sprint Cup Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The No. 99 rumbled to the pits on Lap 241 of 267 and cycled out to a race lead it wouldn't relinquish on Lap 245. The time Edwards saved during the stop help evaporate the four-second race lead Tony Stewart held when he pitted on Lap 234 to put four fresh tires for his No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing ride.
Stewart's attempt to chase down Edwards in the closing laps fell 1.246 seconds short and ended with a second-place finish. Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Ryan Newman closed out the race top five.
Edwards grabbed his third victory in his past five Sprint Cup Series starts dating back to last season's Phoenix event and hauled in his second top-two finish of the season. The effort places Edwards' early-season momentum back on track following last week's 28th-place Phoenix finish caused by an on-track incident while his No. 99 was racing among the top five.
"This means a lot coming off Phoenix. We went home last week and I didn't know how things would go from there. You don't get a good racecar like that very often; we had another one today. I have to thank the Air Force. They let me fly with them on Thursday. They taught me a lot about discipline and believing what you do. This trophy is going in their hangar.
"The key to winning today was my Ford team. These guys are unbelievable. It's unreal. When you're a kid you think, how cool would it be to go to Vegas, fly a bunch of women there in your private plane and race cars? I did it. I brought my mom, my mother-in-law, my daughter and me. This is a great day," Edwards said.
Stewart, who overcame a pit road penalty for carrying an air wrench outside the pit box on Lap 155, led a race-best 163 laps and surrendered a four-second lead when he pitted for the final time under green-flag conditions on Lap 234.
He claimed his first top-five and second top-10 finish of the season and is tied with Kurt Busch for lead in the series standings.
"It kills me to throw a race away like that, especially at a place we haven't won at yet. This was a big deal. Second sucks when you lead that many laps and have a car that's that fast and you lose it. I'm sure when the emotion dies down we'll look back and say it was a great weekend, but it does not sit good right now," Stewart said.
Montoya also generated his first top-five and second top-10 finish of the season. He is tied for second in the standings with Edwards. The tandem will be seven points back of the lead duo when the series arrives at Bristol Motor Speedway March 20.
Race coverage will begin at noon on PRN radio and Sirius XM 128. FOX will start its coverage at 2:00 p.m.
Story by Mike Schmaltz with contribution from NASCAR