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Tony Stewart just fine without Grubb

LAS VEGAS -- Now what was all that talk last week about Tony Stewart missing old crew chief Darian Grubb?

Stewart answered on the track Sunday, winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway one week after Grubb took Denny Hamlin to Victory Lane at Phoenix.

And where was Hamlin this time? He finished 20th at a track where he has struggled most of his career.

Steve Addington, the new crew chief for Stewart, helped Smoke get his first victory on the 1.5-mile Vegas oval, a place where Stewart should have won a year ago.

Hmmm. Maybe sometimes it's more about the driver and how good he is and a particular track than it is about the crew chief.

Addington is happy to give Stewart the credit, but he's overjoyed to get a victory after hearing all the doubters.

"It's a big relief," Addington said. "But everybody here [at Stewart-Haas Racing] has been awesome. You have to understand the pressure I felt was what I put on myself.

"Even when Tony thought the car was good, I would question it. Tony would say, 'Chill out, dude. We're fine.' But I still felt pressure and worried. I wanted to get this win."

Last week, the talk was how Stewart made a mistake in parting ways with the man who helped him win the 2011 championship. No worries. Stewart just goes out seven days later and wins with his new team leader.

Stewart versus Grubb: Stay tuned. Round 2 to Smoke. This is going to be fun.

But Stewart doesn't see this as some sort of us-versus-them battle.

"I just hope this calms everybody down," Stewart said. "I was happy for Darian and those guys last week. Now I'm happy for Steve and my guys. And I'm glad I finally won here."

Stewart had this race won a year ago before a penalty on pit road (running over an air hose) cost him the victory.

"This is big, especially the way we lost it last year," Stewart said in Victory Lane. "We had the dominant car that day. I don't know we had the dominant car today, but we were just so strong on restarts."

A race devoid of excitement most of the day got pretty dramatic in the final laps when several late wrecks brought out yellow flags. It gave the other drivers several shots at Stewart, including runner-up Jimmie Johnson, but Stewart's No. 14 Chevy was a rocket every time the green flag flew.

The wow-factor restart came with 34 laps to go when Stewart was third. Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski didn't pit. It didn't matter.

Stewart went down to the apron on the restart and shot by both of them like they were standing still. Stewart was the restart master Sunday, and the other drivers want to know why.

There is a way to find out, maybe. With the switch to electronic fuel injection (EFI), there's a mapping sequence for restarts.

Would Johnson like to see that mapping sequence on the 14?

"Yep. I've already asked for it, too," Johnson said, smiling. "It's got to be a two-way street. They've been looking at our stuff for years."

Stewart-Haas Racing is a pseudo-satellite team of Hendrick Motorsports, leasing engines and chassis from Hendrick.

I just hope this calms everybody down. I was happy for Darian and those guys last week. Now I'm happy for Steve and my guys. And I'm glad I finally won here.

-- Tony Stewart

Greg Biffle, who finished third and took over the season points lead, also would like to learn Stewart's restart secrets.

"Man, I've just never seen a car drive off like that," Biffle said. "They've got something going on there. It was clear the 14 car had more power than we did. It's been a long time since I've seen a car that fast [on restarts]."

Oh, the irony. One week after Stewart had an EFI issue and couldn't refire the engine, other drivers want to know why his car had better fuel injection on restarts.

When Addington was asked if they will let other teams see their mapping of the restarts, Stewart jumped in.

"I'll answer that," he said. "No."

But Stewart later said he would let Johnson see whatever they had.

"I promise you we will make sure all our Hendrick teammates know what we have," he said. "If the situation was reversed, they would do the same for us."

It's probably much ado about nothing, but "restart class" was in session. The one where Stewart took the lead from third spot was a thing of beauty, one of those moments that prove he's as good a wheel man as there is anywhere in auto racing.

"I had to go, man," Stewart said in a TV interview afterward. "I knew if I could get in clean air we could hold them off a little bit, but I didn't know about the whole run."

Clean air was the key. The car out front was sailing all day. That included Dale Earnhardt Jr. He led the first 43 laps and finished 10th. Earnhardt led 70 laps in all, 18 more than he led all last season.

"Clean air was very important," said Johnson, who led 35 laps. "We were flying around here, and the faster you go, the more clean air becomes a priority."

Stewart knew it, but he wasn't in a hurry to get to the front. He laughed at one point about how drivers were battling for the lead early in the race.

Stewart didn't take the lead until Lap 134, just past the halfway point of the 267-lap event. He led 127 laps the rest of the way.

Hamlin did not lead a lap Sunday. He struggled just to stay on the lead lap, but it's just one race.

The score is 1-1 at the moment. There are still 33 races over eight months to see where it ends up.

"I'm just really proud of both groups with how we've started the season," Stewart said. "We've both started strong. It's pretty cool, really."