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Kenseth celebrates birthday win

Matt Kenseth took his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing in only his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series outing with the team, after holding off Kasey Kahne in Las Vegas.
Last year when Matt Kenseth announced he was leaving Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing, he had been leading the Sprint Cup championship standings. Many wondered how long it would take Kenseth to settle into a new team after such a wrench, and be back to being a contender for race wins. Now we have the answer: it took precisely three NASCAR Sprint Cup races with JGR before Kenseth showed he remembered full well where victory lane was, and how to get there.

“I'm not a goal person, but my goal was to win and win early,” said Kenseth. "It's still only week three, but I feel like this is the beginning.

"Nobody put any pressure on me except for myself," said Kenseth of the achievement of winning so soon after moving to Joe Gibbs' line-up for 2013. "But I also know that Coach hired me to come here and climb in the car and win races. You certainly want to do that; you don't want to disappoint people."

And he certainly hadn't. Kenseth's maiden JGR win came on his 41st birthday, making him only the second driver in series history to net a race win on his birthday. His new team mate Kyle Busch has also managed it, and the iconic Cale Yarborough did it not just once but twice in his career.

The Sunday afternoon Kobalt Tools 400 had started with a lengthy 65-lap green stint, and Brad Keselowski took the initial lead after having being handed pole position based on 2012 owner points following the washout of qualifying on Friday. Keselowski's turn at the front was short-lived, however, and on lap 10 Kasey Kahne assumed command and kept a firm hold on things through to the first round of pit stops on lap 44.

The Friday rain had cost the teams a lot of track practice time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and while some teams - notably Hendrick Motorsports and JGR - were looking none the worse for it and indeed were prospering, others were suffering. After starting from second place, Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer endured such poor handling that he ended up pitting early in desperation for a fix, going two laps down in the process. Danica Patrick was another driver struggling early on and quickly going off the lead lap.

"I was extremely loose the whole time. We made it a little bit better in the middle of the race, to the point where it would go for half the run, but by the end of every run I would find myself very, very loose again," explained Patrick after the race. "We knew we were going to have tough days, but this is not the kind of tough day we thought about."

By contrast JGR's Kyle Busch had been one of those drivers looking fast early on, moving smoothly up from 13th on the grid to lead a lap before the first round of fuel stops, but a pit lane speeding penalty dropped him all the way back to 18th place so that he'd had it all to do over again - which he duly did, despite niggling concerns about the reliability of his engine. It was a number of pit lane penalties - Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and JJ Yeley also got hit by speeding violations, while Patrick was handed a drive-thru after the crew left a tyre out in the pit stall as she accelerated away from a later stop.

The first caution was for debris, and Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing team mate Ryan Newman was the recipient of the free pass before the restart on lap 70. Kahne initially resumed in the lead, but he handed over to his own Hendrick team mate Jimmie Johnson on lap 74 who kept it - with only a brief hiatus during a pit stop cycle - for 66 laps, and then it was back to Kahne who held it through to the next caution, caused by a Marcos Ambrose having a minor moment after missing the entrance to pit road.




Related Pictures

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Travis Kvapil, driver of the #93 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota, blows his engine during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, do battle during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, races past the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
A large incident occurs in turn three during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet, spins out after an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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