Birthday Boy Kenseth Scores In Vegas
LAS VEGAS – Matt Kenseth got to have his cake and eat it too.
Kenseth, celebrating his 41st birthday Sunday, held off a dominant Kasey Kahne to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400. Kenseth is only the third driver in the history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to win a race on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough and Kyle Busch.
The victory, the 25th of his Sprint Cup career, was his first for Joe Gibbs Racing in only his third start with the team.
“Man this is awesome,” said Kenseth after exiting the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota. “I just knew it. I felt real good about this group. I really feel like this is just the beginning. Jason Radcliff (crew chief) is pretty much the man.”
Kahne had the best car on Sunday, but it turned out Kenseth and Radcliff had the best strategy. On lap 223 Travis Kvapil lost the engine in his Toyota, bring out the caution flag and setting up the final pit stops for the leaders.
When the field came down pit road Kenseth’s crew opted for fuel only while Kahne’s team changed two tires. Kenseth came off pit road with the lead with Kahne coming out sixth.
Kenseth held the lead on the restart with 37 laps left, but a caution flag on lap 235 for Ryan Newman’s sour engine slowed the field again.
On the restart with 26 laps left Kahne made his move, jumping from fourth to second in one lap. He then set his sights on Kenseth. Kahne followed in Kenseth’s tire tracks for the next 25 laps, occasionally looking low coming out of turn two.
Despite having fresher tires than Kenseth, Kahne was unable to chase him down in the final laps. Kenseth beat him to the checkers by .594-second.
“I was real nervous (about Kahne). All day he had the best car.,” Kenseth said. “I just had to make sure I stayed in front of him.”
Kahne led a race-high 114 laps on Sunday, but came up just short.
“I had an unbelievable Farmers Insurance Chevrolet throughout the whole race,” Kahne said. “We just came out sixth there (during pit stops). I think Matt would have beat us out anyway because he didn’t take tires. Tough to say if we would have got by him.”
Brad Keselowski finished the race in third, followed by Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.