March 06, 2011
However, that baddest car wasn't the car in victory lane.
Stewart dominated the Kobalt Tools 400 but finished second to Carl Edwards thanks to a penalty on a pit stop on Lap 151 of the 267-lap race. Under a caution flag, an air hose to change the rear tires got hooked on the left-rear quarterpanel of Stewart's car as he exited the pits. Stewart left the pits in first, but the penalty for taking the air hose out of the pit box put him in 23rd on the ensuing restart.
Stewart got back to first with 69 laps to go by taking two tires when the rest of the cars on the lead lap took four. That gamble appeared to pay off as Stewart bolted to a 4.5-second lead over Juan Pablo Montoya and Edwards. But when he pitted with 28 laps to go, he had to take four tires.
Since Montoya and Edwards had taken four tires earlier, they were able to take two tires on their final stops and the shorter pit stops put the two drivers out in front of Stewart after the stops cycled through.
By the time Stewart got around Montoya with six laps to go, Edwards was uncatchable with a 1.7 second lead.
Stewart was blunt after the race.
"I honestly think we had the car to beat today. We just gave it away," Stewart said.
And as he also said after the race that "second sucks," that second place was his best finish of the season despite being at the front in the closing stages of all three races of 2011. At Daytona, Stewart restarted on the front row with two laps to go and fell to 13th. Last week at Phoenix, a two-tire stop had him in front in the closing laps. Had the race stayed green, Stewart likely would have won. It didn't and Stewart slipped to seventh after that final restart.
"I probably should [be happy about being in a position to win in all three races], but that's not in my makeup," Stewart said.
"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 today, and when you lead that many laps and have a car that's that fast and you lose it. I'm sure tomorrow when the emotion dies down we'll look back and say it was a great weekend, but just man, it does not sit good right now."
But those three good finishes mean that Stewart heads to the off week with 113 points, tied for the points lead with Kurt Busch. The win vaulted Edwards into a tie for third with Montoya at 106 points, seven back of Stewart and Busch.
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