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Stewart off to rare good start
Wait, this is March, right? Stewart’s not supposed to start winning until later in the season, when the sun is high in the sky, the tracks hot and slick.
“The spring has historically not been our strong suit, you’re 100 percent right on that,” Stewart said after his victory in Las Vegas on Sunday. “They’re not going to move this Vegas race to the middle of the summer so we can win one. We had to figure out how to be good in the spring at some point.”
A notoriously slow starter, Stewart has picked up most of his wins in the summer, when the heat puts a premium driving skill, not just pushing the accelerator flat.
Stewart used his slow-to-get-going approach to win his third Sprint Cup title last year, picking up all five of his victories during the chase for the championship. He finished the season in a tie with Carl Edwards _ a first in Sprint Cup history _ with a 5-1 edge in victories.
Stewart had a couple of shaky moments in the first two races of this season, but had the dominant car Sunday at Las Vegas.
He used a bold move to take the lead late in the race, timing a restart perfectly and shooting past two cars by dipping down to the apron. Stewart pulled away on three more restarts after that for his first win at Las Vegas’ 1.5-mile tri-oval, leaving Darlington and Kentucky as the only active tracks where he has yet to win.
“To finally check this off the list, that’s what makes today so special,” Stewart said. “Not so much the time of year we’re getting it, just the fact we finally got this one.”
And he did it in just his third race with a new crew chief.
Stewart qualified third at last month’s Daytona 500 with his new crew chief and led two laps, but was never really a factor, finishing 16th.
Last week at Phoenix, he was near the front, but couldn’t get his car to restart after turning it off to conserve fuel. His team spent agonizing minutes in the pits trying to figure out how to get it going and Stewart ended up 22nd.
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