LAS VEGAS – Matt Kenseth won on his 41st birthday for his new Joe Gibbs Racing team, barely holding off Kasey Kahne for his third victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Kenseth earned his 25th career victory in just his third start in the JGR Toyota after leaving Roush Fenway Racing in the offseason. He took the lead away from Kahne out of a late restart and fended off Kahne’s Chevrolet over the final laps, adding another trophy to his Las Vegas victories in 2003 and 2004.
“I was real nervous all day,” Kenseth said. “[Kahne] had the best car. I told [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] with about 12 to go that I was sorry we were going to lose. We were just too tight. ... We didn’t have the fastest car there, but we had it where we needed it to be.”
Kenseth’s win was the 50th for Toyota in Sprint Cup Series competition.He has won at least one race in 11 of his 14 full seasons in the Sprint Cup series, but the first 13 were all in Fords with Roush Fenway, the team that gave him his break in NASCAR.
The 400-mile race was the first real test for the new Gen-6 car on the intermediate tracks they’re built to race.
Any drivers who still think it’s too tough to pass in the new car must not have been watching Kyle Busch, who made two lengthy charges up to early leads, doing it both before and after a pit-row speeding penalty dropped him back to 18th.
The Gen-6 is still a work in progress. Several drivers reported various problems with their cars early on, with Clint Bowyer and Stewart both dropping far back in the opening laps. After 3 days of chilly weather, warmer temperatures Sunday changed the track’s feel, and teams struggled to adjust to the slickness.
Danica Patrick struggled from the start, going two laps down by the 60th lap and later getting penalized for a tire violation. She finished 33rd.