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Matt Kenseth drives to birthday win in Kobalt Tools 400


Matt Kenseth piloted his Dollar General Toyota to a win Sunday (March 10, 2013) in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- on his 41st birthday, no less -- holding off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in a final 30-lap duel.

Matt Kenseth’s car was superb for the third time in three races this season. This time, the No. 20 team saw it pay off in the final standings.

Kenseth piloted his Dollar General Toyota to a win Sunday in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- on his 41st birthday, no less -- holding off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in a final 30-lap duel. The key was a late pit stop during caution in which Kenseth took fuel only, allowing him jump into first place coming out of pit road while most of the other leaders took two tires.

It was Kenseth’s third win at Las Vegas and his first since 2004. Kenseth also became the third driver in series history to win on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough and Kyle Busch.

“I’m not a goal person, but my goal was to win and win early,” said Kenseth, who visited Victory Lane in his third start with JGR. “Nobody put any pressure on me except for myself, but I also know that Coach (Joe Gibbs) 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… 

“It’s still only week three, but I feel like this is the beginning.”

Rounding out the top five: Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Busch and Carl Edwards.

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

Keselowski had dropped down to 13th place following a pit road mishap, but he and crew chief Paul Wolfe later took four tires when most other cars took two, leaving them in position for a fuel-only stop under caution on Lap 235.

“Yeah, I want to win,” said Keselowski who finished fourth in the first two events of the season, at Daytona and Phoenix. “It’s a different perspective, because I'm not happy with top fives -- I want to win. The last three weeks, really the last two weeks -- and I'm sure when I get home tonight I'm going to go home and throw around some pillows and punch some things -- because we've had a shot at winning all three races and come up short, whether it's circumstances or bad luck or, today, just a little bit of execution."

Kahne, who battled Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson for the lead for most of the afternoon, led 114 laps. Johnson led 66 laps and finished sixth.

Busch's fourth-place finish came on the heels of Saturday's second-place showing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Among the heavyweights who struggled Sunday were Clint Bowyer and 2012 race winner Tony Stewart. Bowyer attempted to make a pass for the lead on Lap 3, nearly lost control of his car, and lost a few spots while regaining his grip. It didn’t get better, and the No. 15 Toyota, which started second, fell to 17th just 12 laps into the race with a loose car. He pitted under green on Lap 15 and came out 43rd, two laps down, and never recovered, finishing 27th.

Stewart also complained of a loose race car, and he dropped down the field early but decided not to pit out of cycle. He remained around 20th place -- and one lap down -- for most of the race before getting back onto the lead lap following a caution on Lap 194 and working his way up to 11th place.

Race results:

1. (18) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267

2. (4) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267

3. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267

4. (13) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267

5. (16) Carl Edwards, Ford, 267

6. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267

7. (12) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 267

8. (11) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267

9. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267

10. (17) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267

11. (9) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 267

12. (21) Joey Logano, Ford, 267

13. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 267

14. (15) Mark Martin, Toyota, 267

15. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267

16. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267

17. (5) Greg Biffle, Ford, 267

18. (7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 267

19. (25) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 267

20. (24) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 266

21. (27) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 266

22. (19) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 266

23. (36) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 266

24. (33) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 266

25. (10) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 266

26. (20) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 266

27. (2) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 265

28. (31) David Gilliland, Ford, 265

29. (30) Casey Mears, Ford, 265

30. (26) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 263

31. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 263

32. (38) David Stremme, Toyota, 261

33. (37) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, 261

34. (32) David Reutimann, Toyota, 261

35. (43) Josh Wise(i), Ford, 260

36. (35) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 259

37. (34) Ken Schrader, Ford, 258

38. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Engine, 234

39. (28) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, Engine, 217

40. (42) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 216

41. (40) Scott Speed, Ford, Transmission, 143

42. (41) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Vibration, 66

43. (39) Michael McDowell, Ford, Vibration, 21

Race statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 146.287 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 44 Mins, 16 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.594 Seconds.

Caution Flags: Five for 25 laps.

Lead Changes: 22 among 8 drivers.