Kenseth Wins in Las Vegas!
It didn’t take long for Matt Kenseth to earn his first victory for Joe Gibbs Racing with an impressive performance for victory in today’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kenseth decided to celebrate his birthday by holding off a fast charging Kasey Kahne over the final 20 laps to lift Dollar General to its first every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
In addition the victory marked Toyota’s 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and JGR’s 101st.
It was a strong day overall for JGR with Kyle Busch proving to have one of the fastest cars on the track throughout the day leading several times and earning a fourth-place finish. Denny Hamlin managed to recover from a pit road speeding penalty that at one point left him a lap down, to earn a 15th place finish.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 18th position but wasted no time making his way into the top ten as he drove his way all the way up to eighth by lap 20. Kenseth battled loose conditions but managed to remain inside the top ten through much of the first half of the race. He would work his way into sixth on lap 140. The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry would restart fourth with just over 100 laps remaining and then settled into the fifth position on the next green flag run. A caution on lap 195 would bring Kenseth down pit road and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would call for a two-tire change. Kenseth would line up fifth for the restart on lap 200 and a great restart would see him climb into third. When a caution came out with just over 40 laps remaining the Dollar General team would make the call for fuel only allowing Kenseth to restart first on lap 230. Kenseth would take the lead on the restart but another caution would come out with 32 to go. That did little to deter Kenseth and the Dollar General team however as he took the lead once again and then held off a hard charging Kahne over the final 20 laps to get the win.
Busch, started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in 13th and displayed just how fast his car was right from the drop of the green flag moving into the top ten and then into the top five during the race’s opening laps. He would be racing in third when the first round of green flag pit stops began and he would get credit for leading a lap during the cycle before heading down pit road. NASCAR would rule him too fast entering the pits on the stop however and the drive-thru penalty would cost him to drop to the back of the led lap cars. The penalty did little to deter the M&Ms team however as Busch restarted 15th following the day’s first caution and quickly worked his way right back into the top ten. He would re-enter the top five at the midpoint of the race and was running fourth on lap 145. Busch would line up third for a restart with just over 100 laps to go and a strong move to the bottom of the track would allow him to take the lead. A caution on lap 195 brought the leaders down pit road and crew chief Dave Rogers made the call for two tires and the M&Ms crew got Busch out to restart third on lap 200. Once again Busch would prove outstanding on the restart as he jumped to the lead. A two-tire stop while under caution dropped the No. 18 Camry back to seventh for a restart with 37 laps to go as several of the leaders went with fuel only. Busch would jump back into fifth on the restart. A quick caution followed just five laps later and Busch would restart sixth with 28 to go. He would manage to gain two more spots over the final run to earn a strong fourth-place finish.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the seventh position and was able to race into the top five through the opening laps of the race, but loose conditions would cause him to drop back to just inside the top ten. Hamlin would remain in the top 10 through much of the first half of the race, but would get hit with a pit road speeding penalty while entering the pits during a round of green flag stops and had to serve a drive-thru penalty which dropped him a lap off the pace and back to 19th on lap 120. When a caution came out with just over 100 laps to go Hamlin would get back onto the lead lap and crew chief Darian Grubb would have him come down pit road to be topped off on fuel just before the restart. Hamlin would line up15th on the restart. When a caution came out on lap 195 the FedEx team would make the call to remain out on the track which vaulted them to the lead when all other lead lappers hit pit road. That left Hamlin to restart first on lap 200, but without the fresh tires of those around him he would drop back to fifth after a couple of laps. Hamlin would have to come down pit road for fuel under the green flag with about 50 laps remaining which forced him a lap down again, but a caution just a few laps later allowed him to take the wave around and restart 17th with 37 laps to go. He would remain 17th when another caution came out just five laps later allowing him to come down pit road for four tires and fuel. Hamlin would get two additional spots over the final green flag run to finish 15th.
Kasey Kahne finished second behind Kenseth, while Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson. There were five cautions for a total of 25 laps and 22 lead changes among eight different drivers.