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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)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Tyler Reddick, driver of the #19 DrawTite Ford, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS,  qualified for seventh position Friday, October 31, 2014 for Sunday`s Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Newman, who is in the Chase, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualified for fifth position Friday, October 31, 2014 for Sunday`s Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet SS qualified for third position Friday, October 31, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson is shown with his crew chief, Chad Knaus. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for second position Friday, October 31, 2014 for Sunday`s Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Gordon, who is in the Chase, leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings . (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, poses with the Henry repeating rifle pole award after qualifying for pole position for during Pinnacle Propane Qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, poses with the Coor`s Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for during Pinnacle Propane Qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives during Pinnacle Propane Qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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