Tony Stewart was the big winner in last year's NASCAR season, but the famous racer has never been known to have a good start to his years, typically winning more in the second half than the first. However, 2012 could be quite different for Stewart, as he took home first place in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was a classic NASCAR race that featured plenty of moments of drama. For much of the day, all eyes were on Jimmie Johnson, who is considered one of the best drivers in the sport. Johnson crashed his car during practice for the race and was forced to use a backup. He was also at the very back of the pack to start things off, but some excellent racing meant he nearly went from worst to first.
Stewart, meanwhile, put together the win mainly thanks to his excellence on restarts. When the pack was given a caution due to a crash, it was Stewart who got off the line the fastest once the vehicles were given the green light again. The race-winning maneuver was likely when he went three cars wide in order to pass Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer. On numerous other restarts, Stewart improved his position until he got to the very front.
"We had a dominant car last year - I don't know if we had the dominant car today but we were so strong on restarts," Stewart told Sports Illustrated. "I knew as long as we got the clean air I could hold those guys off."
It was there that he met Johnson, who had worked his way all the way from forty-third to get to the front. In the end, however, he just didn't have enough for Stewart. Fans watched as two of the greatest in NASCAR history dueled for the checkered flag, but it ended with Stewart in Victory Lane.
The victory was also a big one for Stewart's crew chief, Steve Addington. Before the season ended last year, Stewart elected to let his former crew chief go, and stuck by the decision even after he won the championship. Some fans questioned the move, but Stewart's early success is proving that Addington may have been the right choice after all.
Only two races are in the books thus far, but it's already looking like another great season of NASCAR for fans to enjoy.