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Kenseth Gets First Victory For Joe Gibbs Racing

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 10 2013

Matt Kenseth celebrates birthday, first win in a Toyota, at Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)


Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne in a 26-lap green-flag run to the finish Sunday to win the Kobalt Tools 400 Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The win is Kenseth’s first in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as he moved to the team following the 2012 season.

“I just knew it,” he said. “I just feel really good about this group. I really feel like this is just the beginning. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) is pretty much the man.”

In winning the 25th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of his career, Kenseth, who turned 41 Sunday, became the third driver in series history to win on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough and Kyle Busch in that exclusive club.

Kenseth crossed the finish line .594 seconds ahead of Kahne, who led a race-high 114 laps. Defending series champion Brad Keselowski ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard completed the top 10.

Johnson leaves Las Vegas as the series leader, five points ahead of Keselowski and 10 ahead of third-place Earnhardt.

Kahne had opened a lead of more than two seconds over Johnson when the engine in Travis Kvapil’s Toyota exploded in Turn 4, trailing smoke and dropping oil on the track.

During pit stops under caution on Lap 226 of 267, Kenseth and Keselowski opted for fuel only and left pit road 1-2, with Johnson, Edwards, Earnhardt and Kahne—all of whom took two tires—trailing behind them.

Kahne lost five spots in the pits after his egress from his pit stall was blocked by Tony Stewart, who had to slow down on the way to his pit box to avoid Kenseth, who was leaving after the fuel-only stop.

Kahne got two spots back after a restart on Lap 231, but his progress was interrupted on Lap 235 when Ryan Newman’s Chevrolet blew its engine on Lap 235.

After the subsequent yellow, Kahne restarted fourth on Lap 242. Kenseth kept the No. 5 Chevrolet at bay the rest of the way.

This was a great opportunity for me,” Kenseth said. “I felt, and obviously still feel real good about it. Man, I just feel like it is just the beginning. Jason Ratcliff  and this whole Dollar General crew back here – these guys are just awesome. I’m just real proud to be in the seat. Just glad I didn’t mess it up for them today.”

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 10 2013
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