Matt Kenseth celebrated his 41st birthday in the best way he knew how on Sunday with a celebration in victory lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after he won the Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track. It was his 25th-career series win and his first for Joe Gibbs Racing in only three starts with the team.
“I just knew it,” Kenseth said in victory lane. “I felt real good about this group. This is just the beginning.”
Kasey Kahne finished second after leading a race high 113 laps of the 267-lap event. Brad Keselowski was third, Kyle Busch fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five.
“I had an unbelievable Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet all day,” Kahne said. “I drove so hard every single lap.”
Keselowski started on the pole after rain cancelled qualifying on Friday and the starting grid was set by 2012 owner points. He lost that lead to Kahne on lap 11. Kahne and Keselowski continued to run first and second and they were joined in third by Kyle Busch on lap 25.
Busch lost his top-three spot during a cycle of green-flag stops, though, around lap 44 when he was caught speeding on pit road. Despite the penalty, he remained onthe lead lap. Meanwhile, Kahne and Keselowski cycled back to the first two positions in the running order.
As Kahne continued to lead, Keselowski lost second to Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson on a restart following a debris caution that came out on lap 66. Johnson then took the lead from Kahne on lap 76.
Kahne retook the lead from his teammate on lap 138 and within a matter of just a few laps drove out to a cushion of more than three seconds. That margin was erased, though, by a yellow flag on lap 160. That caution also resulted in a loss of the lead for Kahne, as Johnson got off pit road during the yellow flag to reassume the top spot. Kahne restarted second and Busch in third.
Busch got by both the HMS drivers to take the lead when the race went back to green, but with 84 laps to go, Kahne moved back to the front. Kahne and Busch got off pit road first and second when the next caution of the race came out on lap 195, but Denny Hamlin restarted in the lead by staying out on the race track.
Kahne and Busch quickly got by Hamlin, though, when the race went back to green. Busch then took the lead from Kahne, but with 57 laps to go, Kahne took it back.
Hamlin wound up getting caught a lap down when staying out during the caution required a green-flag stop with 47 laps to go. The yellow flag waved again just a few laps after he made his stop under green, allowing everyone else to pit under caution.
During the caution, Kenseth and Keselowski got off pit road first and second and Busch in third, while Kahne was slow getting out of his pit stall in an attempt to avoid hitting Tony Stewart. Kahne made his way back up to second on a restart following the fifth and final caution of the race that came out with 32 laps to go.
Kenseth and Kahne then pulled away from the field for a two-car battle for the win, leaving Keselowski and Busch to fight for third. Kenseth was able to hold off Kahne, while Keselowski and Busch swapped the third position a couple of times in the closing laps.
“I was real nervous all day,” Kenseth said. “He (Kahne) had the best car. . . . We were in the right place at the right time.”
Finishing sixth through 10th were Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR