by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Race: Kobalt Tools 400
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval; Banking/Tri-oval: 9°; Banking/Turns: 20°; Banking/Backstretch: 3°
2011 Winner: Carl Edwards
2012 Race Length: 400.5 miles/267 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 188.884 mph (Matt Kenseth, 2011)
Race Record: 146.554 mph (Mark Martin, 1998)
From the Spotter’s Stand
Tony Stewart checked one too many times on pit road, allowing Carl Edwards to go all-in for his first and only win of the 2011 season in a head-to-head showdown in March that proved to be foreshadowing for the epic Chase duel in October and November.
A costly pit-road penalty hurt Stewart, who led a race-high 163 of 267 laps and seemed to be in control for much of the race — holding a 3.5-second lead over Juan Pablo Montoya with 40 laps to go. But the fastest car wasn’t able to cash in on the 1.5-mile tri-oval strip in Vegas.
Sin City belonged to the pair of nines, with the 99 Ford parlaying strategic pit stops and an error-free run into $401,541 in winnings.
Edwards may have won the Las Vegas battle; but in the end, Stewart won the Cup war.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Track position is always important, but at Las Vegas it seems to be paramount. Clean air will make any car feel like it’s handling a little better. To get out front and enjoy that downforce you need to be able to get through the corners. Vegas is very fast for a mile-and-a-half track, and it can be one of the most challenging places for setting up a car. There is a fine line you have to walk between being fast and wrecking — and there is little margin for error.”
Classic Moments at LVMS
Sterling Marlin’s 2002 season began with five consecutive top 10s, including the infamous Daytona 500 fender-pull, and two wins — the first of which came in the UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 3.
Marlin qualified 24th but quickly worked his No. 40 Coors Light Dodge near the front. Having recovered from a spin while leading on lap 120, Marlin drove by Jeremy Mayfield with 16 laps remaining, holding him off after a caution slowed the field with 13 laps to go.
Marlin held the points lead from Rockingham in February through Richmond in September, but was sidelined with what Sterling called “a broke neck” during the 29th race of the season at Kansas.
Jimmie Johnson, in his sixth career Cup race, recorded the first top-10 run (sixth) of his career.