Saturday, October 16, 2021

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Kenseth holds on for third Las Vegas win

There may not be a better place to spend a birthday than Las Vegas. The only thing that could make it better is winning on your birthday in Las Vegas.

When the checkered flag flew Sunday’s afternoon after 267 laps of racing around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth was celebrating his birthday with a win in the Kobalt Tools 400.

“Man this is awesome,” said and overjoyed Kenseth in victory lane after becoming just the third driver in Sprint Cup Series history to win a race on their birthday. “I just knew it. I just feel really good about this group and this is just the beginning.

“Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) is pretty much the man.”

The win didn’t come without a challenge, however, for Kenseth.

Throughout the final laps of the race, Kenseth’s No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was stalked by Kasey Kahne’s dominant No.5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

As the laps wound down and the two leaders closed in on slower cars, it became apparent that whoever was able to clear the traffic the quickest would wind up in victory lane.

Slicing their way through the traffic, Kenseth and Kahne practically ran in each other’s tire tracks around the 1.5-mile oval. Through all of the dicing, it looked as though Kahne’s best chance to pass the No.20 of Kenseth would be off the second turn.

When the final lap came and Kahne didn’t have his normal, powerful run off the second turn, he drove his No.5 about as deep as he could drive it into turn three, but he would have to settle for second as Kenseth pulled away off the last turn.

“I drove so hard every single lap today,” said Kahne who finished second after leading a race-high 114 laps. “I had the car to beat today and we lost  but still a great run for all of our guys.”

While Kahne and Kyle Busch dominated most of the race, Sunday’s race set a record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the most green-flag passes for the lead with 31.

However, the pass for the win didn’t come on the track; It came on pit road when the No.20 team opted not to change tires on their final trip to pit road.

The win was the twenty-fifth of Kenseth’s Sprint Cup Series career and third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I was real nervous,” said Kenseth about the battle with Kahne over the final few laps. “[Kahne] had the best car.

“I told Jason with 12-to-go, ‘I’m sorry if we get beat’. I just getting too tight and I was killing the right front and I just had to stay in front of him. Didn’t have quite the fastest car at the end, but we had it where we needed it to be.”

It also marks the first time Kenseth has won a Sprint Cup race with any other team than Roush Fenway Racing where he spent the first thirteen years of his Sprint Cup career.

“It’s a very special group of guys,” said Kenseth about his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing and picking up his first win with them. “First three weeks I’ve felt we’ve had cars that are capable of winning all the races if we got them in the right spots and all o the right stuff happened.

“It’s pretty cool the stars were able to align today and we were able to hold off Kasey.”

Heading into next Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kenseth sits seventh in Sprint Cup points, 36-points behind leader Jimmie Johnson who posted a sixth place finish on Sunday.

Kobalt Tools 400 Unofficial Results 

  1. Matt Kenseth 
  2. Kasey Kahne
  3. Brad Keselowski
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Carl Edwards
  6. Jimmie Johnson
  7. Dale Eanhardt Jr.
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. Kevin Harvick
  10. Paul Menard
  11. Tony Stewart
  12. Joey Logano
  13. Jamie McMurray
  14. Mark Martin
  15. Denny Hamlin
  16. Aric Almirola
  17. Greg Biffle
  18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  19. Juan Pablo Montoya
  20. Kurt Busch
  21. Austin Dillon
  22. Marcos Ambrose
  23. Trevor Bayne
  24. Dave Blaney
  25. Jeff Gordon
  26. Jeff Burton
  27. Clint Bowyer
  28. David Gilliland
  29. Casey Mears
  30. Bobby Labonte
  31. David Ragan
  32. David Stremme
  33. Danica Patrick
  34. David Reuitmann
  35. Josh Wise
  36. JJ Yeley
  37. Ken Schrader
  38. Ryan Newman
  39. Travis Kvapil
  40. Joe Nemechek
  41. Scott Speed
  42. Landon Cassill
  43. Michael McDowell

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