Tony Stewart Gambles and Comes Up Short in Vegas

Camille JonesContributor IIIMarch 6, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 06:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil1/Office Depot Chevrolet, comes in for a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It was a dominating day for Tony Stewart and his No. 14 Chevrolet in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- for the first half, at least, before things began to take a turn. Having led the most laps of the race crossing the halfway mark of the 267-lap race, he was in perfect shape for the checkered flag.

That was until a problem on pit lane shoved him to the middle of the field. 

An air hose was left dragging from the rear of his car as he pulled away from his pit box, resulting in a pass-through penalty for Stewart and leaving him in the 23rd position.

If he wanted to return to the front of the field, he would have to take the risk and gamble in Vegas with tires. 

In the 15th position, he was going nowhere until coming down pit road and retrieving only two tires under the call of his crew chief, Darian Grubb. The move, during the caution around the 200 lap mark, would take him to the front of the field and allow him to lead again and pull off to open a leading margin of over two seconds. 

After a long green flag run at the end of the race, Stewart had to collect four fresh tires on his final pit stop, ending his strong lead of the field. 

It wouldn't be long before Tony was back in a front position. Not the position he had in mind though, finishing the race in second behind Carl Edwards who drove a race of flawless pit stops and no error throughout the day. 

But as they say, drivers don't race for a good finish -- they race for a win.

"We just gave one away today," Stewart said in a post-race interview, "I don't even know what to say."

One thing's for sure, Tony Stewart can't be too hard on himself for not taking the win in today's race. He now leaves Vegas and heads on to Bristol as the leader in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.