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By REID SPENCER
LAS VEGAS (NASCAR) - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dominated the last 50 laps of Saturday's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, pulling away from Mark Martin during a 39-lap green flag run the finish.
The victory was Stenhouse's first of the season and third in the series -- and his first on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway, the staple of NASCAR's top three touring series.
Points leader Elliott Sadler came home third, followed by Trevor Bayne and Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan. Cole Whitt, Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Sam Hornish Jr. and Kasey Kahne completed the top 10.
"To win on a mile-and-a-half (racetrack) is big for me," Stenhouse said. "I feel like our cars are better than I am at some mile-and-a-halfs, and I feel like I drive really hard at the short tracks. I think we've got a really good package going now, and to get that win on a mile-and-a-half feels good."
First out of the pits after a stop under caution on Lap 146, Stenhouse drove away from Martin after a restart on Lap 162, opening a lead of 4.785 seconds with 20 laps left. The defending Nationwide champion maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
Even if he hadn't won the race off pit road on Lap 146, Stenhouse felt he had the winning car.
"I definitely think we had the car to beat -- I feel like we could have started sixth and still won that race there at the end," Stenhouse said. "I found a line that I like to run, the car was coming around to it, (crew chief) Mike Kelley made some awesome pit calls there, and I just think we had the car to beat."
Martin said the last green-flag run was no contest.
"That was one serious beat-down he put on me that last run," Martin told the NASCAR Wire Service. "I mean just a beat-down. I kept up with him for a while and about wrecked five times, and that's it. The run before that (when Martin was leading)? It was no problem. I could stay ahead of him, and any time he would close in on me, I could get up on the wheel and pull back out.
"But that last run, he seemed to be stronger. I didn't feel my car was off. He just had that thing rolling. I'm not ashamed to say it wasn't even close."
Danica Patrick finished where she started, running 12th after qualifying 12th.
Fighting an extremely loose handling condition, Kyle Busch spun off Turn 2 and backed his No. 54 Toyota into the inside wall on Lap 26. Busch drove the car to the garage, where he lost 70 laps while his team made repairs.
Updated March 10, 2012