Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Race Capsule
The Scoop: Matt Kenseth leads the last part of race to win for his first time with Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth gains lead by taking no tires on final pit stop and then holds off the day’s fastest car, Kasey Kahne. Kahne led 114 laps, but got jammed up in some traffic on the day’s last pit stop and lost track position. He almost caught Kenseth and finished 2nd. Kenseth becomes the third driver to win on his birthday. Brad Keselowski (on same no-tires strategy as Kenseth) was 3rd, Kyle Busch (busted early in race for speeding on pit road) 4th, and last week’s winner Carl Edwards 5th.
140 Characters or Less: Kahne leads most laps, but slow in pits/restarts. Kenseth snags lead w/no tires. Dirty air still matters, no matter the car. Happy bday!
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Kasey Kahne – had the fastest car and really only lost because of having to leave pits later as Tony Stewart entered his stall. He may still have lost the race, as Kenseth beat him and crew chief Kenny Francis on tire strategy. Even still, Kahne overcame slow restarts again and again to keep retaking the lead. He almost did it again with Kenseth, but still ended the day leading the most laps (114).
North Korean Missile Dud: Clint Bowyer – With the starting lineup set by 2012 points after Friday’s qualifying rainout, Bowyer got a prime starting position and should have run well in the race (Toyotas were fast all weekend). Instead, Bowyer dropped all the way outside the top 20 in the first few laps, pitted very early for what he thought was a flat tire and dropped two laps down, and finished a dismal 27th.
Never Fear, Underdogs Are Here: Dave Blaney – A 24th place finish isn’t much to brag about, but this No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team flat outran big money Sunday: Jeff Gordon 25th, Jeff Burton 26th, Bowyer 27th. TBR has done plenty to try and improve its program with Blaney and J.J. Yeley. They won’t beat teams like this every week, but now they have the equipment to capitalize on others’ mistakes much more than in TBR’s first few years.
You Can Comeback, But You Can’t Stay Here: Kyle Busch – NASCAR busted the No. 18 for speeding entering pit road during the first pit sequence. But crew chief Dave Rogers deployed pit strategy to gain Busch the spots back and “Rowdy” mixed it up with the leaders the rest of the day. He finished 3rd and took the lead on the 3rd-to-last restart by making a three-wide pass on the apron just after the start-finish line.
Wheel of Misfortune: Joe Nemechek – Not that the No. 87 was going to get anywhere close to winning this week, but NEMCO is committed to not start-and-parking this season. An early fuel pump issue sent Nemechek to pit road and then the garage. He finished the race 40th, 51 laps down. After wrecking several cars this season, this team did not need another setback.
Head-Scratcher Crown: NASCAR – the race went without major error from participants (though Ryan Newman’s missing a shift and cooking his engine was a bad move). NASCAR really screwed the pooch this week in its fining Denny Hamlin $25,000 for comments he made not in favor of the new Gen-6 car. At a time with PR so tenuous for the sport, NASCAR further cemented itself as a Glass Tower Governor. Fans want to hear drivers’ opinions and NASCAR has scared them again into towing their party line. Yes, opinions of the new car are in their infancy and drivers’ comments can steer the success of its catching on with the fans. But NASCAR’s punishment, which Hamlin will appeal, makes the sport look like there is a lurking thought of the car that it needs to hide. Hamlin deserves props for standing up to the governing body by saying he won’t pay the fine. He also is using this instance to point out the lack of relationship between drivers and NASCAR. Hamlin probably will not succeed in keeping his money, but his stance sends a big message to stock car racing’s Big Brother.
Ghost Driver: Jeff Gordon – His 25th place finish put Gordon as one of several drivers who just simply were not hooked up at Las Vegas. The only time Gordon’s No. 24 was on TV was when he was being lapped or when he took wave-arounds.
Georgia on My Mind: Unadilla’s David Ragan started 29th, fell outside the top 30, and stayed there in the No. 34. He finished four laps down in 31st. Small teams not only struggle at fast, big tracks, but are even more with the new Gen-6 car.
NNS wrap: Sam Hornish Jr. led 114 of 200 laps and won his 2nd-career Nationwide Series race. The Joe Gibbs Racing cars, especially the No. 54 of Kyle Busch, were fast, but Hornish Jr. showed rare NASCAR dominance in bringing Penske Racing its first-career win at Las Vegas. Saturday’s race saw more wrecks than the Cup race, but also less passing. Hornish Jr. also leads the points now. Kyle Larson got wrecked twice (neither of his doing), including another nasty, fiery, hard crash late in the race. Georgia drivers finished about where they should have, though Reed Sorenson’s debut in the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports Ford for injured Michael Annett could have gone better (16th). Ryan Sieg, subbing for suspended Jeremy Clements in the No. 51 Chevy, finished a respectable 18th. Buford’s SR2 Motorsports had an up and down day. Blake Koch piloted the No. 24 Toyota to 21st and teammate Jason White’s No. 00 spent plenty of time in the garage with engine trouble and finished 35th. Canton’s Chase Miller start-and-parked The Motorsports Group’s No. 42 to 39th out of the 40 entries in the race.
Next: Both the Cup and Nationwide Series head to Bristol Motor Speedway for the first short track race of the year. Last August’s races were exciting with the newly ground out top groove – let’s see what next weekend brings (especially attendance-wise). NNS: Saturday at 2 p.m. Cup: Sunday at 1 p.m.