Kenseth tops at Vegas
LAS VEGAS—Matt Kenseth decided not to replace any tires during the final pit stop under caution—and the calculated risk put him in the lead.
Kenseth knows a bit about risk after his off-season move to Joe Gibbs Racing, and this latest gamble paid off with his third victory in Vegas.
“I was real nervous all day,” Kenseth admitted. “[Kahne] had the best car.
“I told [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] with about 12 [laps] to go that I was sorry we were going to lose,” he noted. “We were just too tight. . . .
“We didn’t have the fastest car there, but we had it where we needed it to be.”
Kenseth took charge by taking only fuel on the final pit stop during caution while almost everybody else replaced two tires.
He grabbed the lead and held onto it, using his veteran savvy—and a few screamed instructions at his new spotter—to keep Kahne’s impressive Chevrolet behind him to the finish.
The frequently laid-back Kenseth celebrated with uncommon vigour after his JGR Toyota crossed the line.
He’s still getting comfortable with his new teammates after leaving Roush Fenway Racing in the highest-profile driver move of the off-season, joining Gibbs after 13 seasons with RFR.
“I’m not a huge goal person, but my goal was to win and to win early,” Kenseth remarked.
“Nobody has put any pressure on me except for myself, but I also know that ‘Coach’ hired me to come in there, climb in that car, and win races.
“You certainly want to do that, and you don’t want to disappoint people,” he stressed.
“I’m glad we got a win, but it’s still only Week 3,” Kenseth reasoned.
“I feel like this is the beginning.”
Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski finished third yesterday, with Kenseth’s teammate, Kyle Busch, in fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.
Jimmie Johnson, the overall points leader, was sixth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh.
Defending Vegas champ Tony Stewart finished 11th while Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin was 15th after an eventful week featuring a $25,000 fine from NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 race car.
The win was the 50th for Toyota in Sprint Cup Series competition.
Kenseth is just the third NASCAR driver to win on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough—who did it twice—and Busch.