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Lap-by-Lap: Las Vegas

March 15, 2012, ,

Lap 267 -- CHECKERED FLAG: Tony Stewart sails to the victory. It's his first win since last November, when he clinched the 2011 championship at Homestead.

Lap 265 -- Jimmie Johnson is going high in the turns, but is not gaining any ground on leader Tony Stewart.

Lap 263 -- GREEN FLAG: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards lead the grid to the green flag. Here we go ...

Stewart gets another good start. Kenseth pounds the wall on the backstretch, but there's no caution. Johnson gets a run off Turn 4, but can't take the lead.

Lap 262 -- Five laps to go. Are we going to see a green-white-checkered flnish today?

Lap 259 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 8: Kyle Busch spins in Turn 4.

Lap 258 -- GREEN FLAG: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are the top five on the restart. Stewart gets a huge jump and well clear by the time he reaches the first turn.

Lap 257 -- According to Fox's broadcast, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have finished one-two 12 previous times. Johnson holds the advantage with wins in seven of those races.

Lap 256 -- Kyle Busch takes the opportunity to pit under caution.

Lap 255 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 7: Kurt Busch has crashed hard coming off Turn 2.

Lap 253 -- Jimmie Johsnon is right behind leader Tony Stewart.

Lap 251 -- Brad Keselowski is on pit road after his problem on the restart.

Lap 250 -- GREEN FLAG: Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth are the leaders when the green flag comes back out.

Keselowski is dropping back through the field big time. It looks like he spun the tires or missed a shift.

Lap 247 -- Twenty laps are left in the Kobalt Tools 400. It's go time!

Lap 246 -- Kyle Busch, running 14th, is the first of a handful of cars to pit under the caution.

Lap 244 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 6: Landon Cassill has blown an engine.

Lap 242 -- Tony Stewart is built his lead over Brad Keselowski to just over 1.1 seconds. Coming off Turn 2, Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes contact with the rear of Mark Martin's car. That causes Martin to tap the backstretch wall.

Lap 237 -- Tony Stewart isn't going down without a fight. He wrestles the top spot right back from Brad Keselowski. Thirty laps remain.

Lap 236 -- Brad Keselowski gets a super run off Turn 4 to take the lead back from Tony Stewart.

Lap 233 -- GREEN FLAG: The top five on the restart are Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. round out the top 10.

Stewart goes three wide under Bowyer and Keselowski going into Turn 1 to take the lead. Wow ... what a move!

Lap 231 -- Here come the leaders onto pit road for what could be the final time today. The first seven cars off pit road just top off on fuel. Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski stay on the track to take over first and second, respectively.

Lap 229 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 6: The caution is out for the debris on the frontstretch.

Lap 226 -- A NASCAR inspector is reporting debris on the track, but so far, there's no caution.

Lap 224 -- Matt Kenseth has two wins at Las Vegas -- 2003 and 2004.

Lap 222 -- Matt Kenseth charges under Jamie McMurray for second place between Turns 3 and 4.

Lap 219 -- In nine career Cup starts at Las Vegas, Jamie McMurray has just one top-five finish -- a fourth in 2004. He has two other top 10s to his credit.

Lap 217 -- Fifty laps to go. Jamie McMurray trails Tony Stewart by one second.

Lap 215 -- Matt Kenseth has taken over third place from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Lap 212 -- Remember Jamie McMurray's long pit stop earlier in the race to correct some sort of mechanical problem? It has evidently been solved.

Lap 211 -- A.J. Allmendinger has taken his car to the garage.

Lap 209 -- GREEN FLAG: Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth bring the pack to the green.

Stewart is clear for the lead by the time the field reaches Turn 1.

Lap 206 -- The leaders are on pit road. Chances are that none will be able to make it the rest of the way without stopping again. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman take just two tires.

Lap 204 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 4: There's debris on the backstretch.

Lap 203 -- Tony Stewart is working through some heavy lapped traffic.

Lap 200 -- Sixty-seven laps to go. Tony Stewart leads Matt Kenseth by 1.7 seconds.

Lap 194 -- Paul Menard is running fifth. He has never finished better than 12th at Las Vegas.

Lap 190 -- Matt Kenseth goes to the high side of Jimmie Johnson for second place coming off Turn 4.

Lap 186 -- The battle for second place has cooled off for the time being. There's now a few car lengths between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.

Lap 182 -- Matt Kenseth has caught Jimmie Johnson for second place. Debris is being reported on the track.

Lap 179 -- Jeff Gordon gives up the lead to get his car serviced. The lead goes back to Tony Stewart.

Lap 178 -- A.J. Allmendinger makes his pit stop.

Lap 177 -- Brad Keselowski finally makes his stop. A.J. Allmendinger and Jeff Gordon have not yet pitted.

Lap 176 -- Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart drop out of the front two spots to roll down pit road.

Lap 175 -- Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and others are stopping.

Lap 174 -- Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and others are making their stops.

Lap 172 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes his stop.

Lap 171 -- Juan Montoya and Jeff Burton are pitting.

Lap 168 -- Dave Blaney is on pit road. Watch for the leaders to be coming in shortly.

Lap 163 -- Don't look now, but Jimmie Johnson is closing back in on Tony Stewart for the lead. The gap is now about six-tenths of a second.

Lap 160 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., in 10th place, says that his car's handling is getting worse and worse every lap.

Lap 156 -- Tony Stewart's previous best finishes at Las Vegas are a pair of runnerup showings -- in 2000 and 2011.

Lap 153 -- Tony Stewart has moved out to a lead of 1.5 seconds over Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 149 -- Kurt Busch has had to pit with a flat tire. Meanwhile, up front, Tony Stewart has opened up a little bit of ground on second-place Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 144 -- Just a couple of tenths of a second separate Tony Stewart from Jimmie Johnson, but Greg Biffle in third place is 2.8 seconds behind the fight for the lead.

Lap 143 -- Tony Stewart is hanging on to the top spot by four-tenths of a second over Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 134 -- GREEN FLAG: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick lead the field to the restart. The race has reached the halfway point.

Stewart gets a good run going through Turns 1 and 2 and clears for the lead.

Lap 128 -- Kevin Harvick is reporting some sort of problem with his safety harnesses that is causing his legs to go to sleep.

Lap 127 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 3: Travis Kvapil blows an engine coming off Turn 2. Just behind him, Kyle Busch brushes the wall.

Lap 126 -- A.J. Allmendinger pits.

Lap 125 -- Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and others are stopping.

Lap 124 -- Kasey Kahne is pitting..

Lap 123 -- Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and others make their stops.

Lap 122 -- Joey Logano tries to pit, but misses the entrance. Greg Biffle pits.

Lap 119 -- Jeff Gordon is on pit road, an early stop in an upcoming cycle of green-flag stops.

Lap 116 -- Matt Kenseth is still hanging on to second place, but he's three seconds behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 114 -- Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with four victories here at Las Vegas. He won in 2005-2007 and 2010.

Lap 107 -- There's at least a second or so between each of the first five cars.

Lap 105 -- Carl Edwards, running 10th, says that his car is very loose and wants to pit as soon as possible within the next fuel window.

Lap 100 -- Matt Kenseth has backed off to the point that he's now about seven-tenths of a second behind new leader Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 98 -- Jimmie Johnson is finally able to make a pass on Matt Kenseth for the lead.

Lap 96 -- This time ... nope. Jimmie Johnson still can't wrestle the lead away from Matt Kenseth.

Lap 94 -- It looks like Matt Kenseth is better on the straights, with Jimmie Johnson a little quicker in the turns.

Lap 92 -- Jimmie Johnson is still stalking Matt Kenseth, going very low in the turns to figure out a way past.

Lap 86 -- The top five are Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick.

Lap 85 -- Now, JJ is going after Matt Kenseth for the lead.

Lap 82 -- Jimmie Johnson grabs second place from Kevin Harvick.

Lap 81 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been able to move up from 16th place. At one point, he was three wide with Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger.

Lap 79 -- Jimmie Johnson is all over Kevin Harvick, working him for second place.

Lap 78 -- GREEN FLAG: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are the leaders. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took four tires on the stop, and that puts him 16th in the running order on the restart.

Kenseth gets the nose of his Ford out front coming through Turns 1 and 2, and takes the lead on the backstretch.

Lap 76 -- David Ragan drops onto pit road.

Lap 74 -- The leaders are on pit road. David Ragan stays on the track.

Lap 73 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 2: David Reutimann spins while trying to get onto pit road.

Lap 71 -- Each of the first five or six cars are separated by at least a few tenths of a second.

Lap 68 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- remember him? -- has a lead of about 1.8 seconds over Matt Kenseth.

Lap 66 -- Matt Kenseth has taken over second place from Kevin Harvick.

Lap 64 -- Tony Stewart has lost several more spots. He's now down to fifth place, but as he pulls up to the rear of Greg Biffle's car, the debris finally blows off.

Lap 61 -- Tony Stewart gives second place back to Kevin Harvick, hoping to blow some debris off the nose of his car.

Lap 59 -- Kevin Harvick goes wide in Turn 4, allowing Tony Stewart to make the pass for second place.

Lap 57 -- Tony Stewart now has second-place Kevin Harvick in his sights. Stewart dominated here last year, but lost after a miscue in the pits.

Lap 53 -- This is s great battle between Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. Kenseth makes the pass on the backstretch, but Stewart grabs the spot right back in the next corner.

Lap 52 -- Tony Stewart takes third place from Matt Kenseth.

Lap 50 -- GREEN FLAG: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. are the leaders. Brad Keselowski will have to start from the rear of the field for speeding off pit road.

Harvick wiggles off Turn 2, but avoids making contact with Earnhardt to his outside. Earnhardt clears for the lead between Turns 3 and 4.

Lap 47 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. got lucky that time. Really, could this be the day his long winless streak ends?

Lap 46 -- Most of the leaders make their stops. Dale Earnhardt Jr. stays on the track. A.J. Allmendinger overshoots his stall and has to back up. Jamie McMurray remains in his pit.

Lap 44 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. gives up the lead to pit. Just as he rolls down pit road, the caution comeS out for Timmy Hill's crash in Turn 2.

Lap 42 -- Joey Logano has dropped to eighth place.

Lap 40 -- The gap between the two leaders is now down to 1.1 seconds.

Lap 38 -- Neither Dale Earnhardt Jr. nor Kevin Harvick has ever won a Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas.

Lap 35 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s cushion over Kevin Harvick has shrunk to just 1.5 seconds.

Lap 34 -- Martin Truex Jr. blows past Joey Logano for third place on the frontstretch.

Lap 31 -- Martin Truex Jr. is within a few car legnths of being able to make a move on Joey Logano for third place.

Lap 29 -- The gap between first and second remains about the same, and it's more than 5.5 seconds from leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. back to third-place Joey Logano.

Lap 26 -- Kevin Harvick has sliced a tenth or two off Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s lead, but it's still very healthy at 2.1 seconds.

Lap 24 -- Jimmy Spencer won what is now a Nationwide Series race here in 1998 ... oh, never mind!

Lap 22 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s radio has been pretty quiet, with just a couple of transmissions in the last few minutes.

Lap 20 -- No, wait a second. Jimmy Spencer won that 1998 race here, with Junior finishing second. They say the memory's the first thing to go, right?

Lap 19 -- Kevin Harvick slips underneath Joey Logano for second place coming off Turn 4.

Lap 15 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. won what is now a Nationwide Series race here in 1998 after a heated late-race battle with Jimmy Spencer.

Lap 12 -- Kyle Busch won the pole here at Las Vegas in 2009, but had to go to the rear of the field in a backup. He went on to capture the victory. Can he do the same today?

Lap 8 -- Casey Mears hits pit road with an early-race problem.

Lap 7 -- Brendan Gaughan has slapped the wall coming off Turn 4 fairly hard, but there's no caution.

Lap 6 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has opened up a lead of 1.4 seconds over Joey Logano. Could this be the day?

Lap 4 -- Joey Logano's car is sponsored by Dollar General this weekend and is yellow, instead of its normal The Home Depot orange colors.

Lap 2 -- Joey Logano took second in the first-lap scramble, with pole-sitter Kasey Kahne dropping back to second.

Lap 1 -- GREEN FLAG: The race goes green at 3:19 p.m. ET. Dale Earnhardt Jr. shoots into the leader after Kevin Harvick tried to go three wide into Turn 1.

3:14 p.m. ET -- Four cars will be going to the rear of the field -- Jimmie Johnson (backup); Kyle Busch (backup); Juan Montoya (engine); and Regan Smith (transmission).

3:12 p.m. -- The pace car has been given permission to ease off pit road for the start of three pace laps.

3:07 p.m. -- Grand marshal Tim Allen gives the command to fire engines, flanked by two showgirls. The superstar actor tells the drivers, "Hey guys, light these bad boys up!"

3:06 p.m. ET -- Race director David Hoots tells spotters to make sure they know where the fire trucks will be making their way onto the track. Now why do you suppose he did that?

3:02 p.m. ET -- The United States Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team does the fly-over. Bucket list!

3:01 p.m. ET -- Pia Toscano of American Idol fame is singing the national anthem.

3 p.m. ET -- Track chaplain Kurt Schulke is saying the invocation.

2:30 p.m. ET -- Driver introductions have started.

8:35 a.m. ET -- Kasey Kahne is having a fairly decent weekend. He qualified second and finished tenth in Saturday's Nationwide Series race. On top of that, Kahne is on the pole for today's Kobalt Tools 400 after turning a blistering fast lap of 190.456 mph during time trials. That broke the previous qualifying record of 188.884 mph set by Matt Kenseth last year.

This was the 23rd pole of Kahne's Sprint Cup career, and his third in nine races at Las Vegas. However, only once -- Kyle Busch in 2009 -- has this race been won from the pole.

Kyle Busch will roll off the starting grid second, his seventh top-10 finish in nine starts here. Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer qualified third through fifth, while Jimmie Johhnson, Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. took sixth through 10th.