Some people celebrate their birthdays with cake and ice cream, but Matt Kenseth got to enjoy his surrounded by more than 150,000 screaming fans in Las Vegas as the winner of the 2013 Kobalt Tools 400.
Kenseth turned 41 on Sunday and also won his first Sprint Cup Series event of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, holding off Kasey Kahne down the stretch. The win marked his 25th career NASCAR victory.
“I was real nervous all day,” Kenseth said, according to ESPN.com. “(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 made some bold, but risky calls in the pits during the final stop, deciding not to change tires when almost every other driver in the field did. The gamble then luckily paid off as he took the lead and held on tight.
After Kahne crossed the line in second, Brad Keselowski came in third, Kyle Busch fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. Defending champion Tony Stewart just missed a top ten, coming in 11th.
All things considered, Busch, who is a Las Vegas native, had a strong day, but he was noticably frustrated by not coming away with the victory.
“I just hate it for my team,” said Busch. “We had by far the best car in practice. I don’t know where that went. Today was a different day. The worst Gibbs car ended up winning the race. It’s funny how this game works.”
It was Kenseth’s first win and just his third start with his new team – team Gibbs – and he was glad to notch a big win early on in the season.
I’m not a huge goal person, but my goal was to win, and to win early,” Kenseth said. “Nobody has put any pressure on me except for myself, but I also know that Coach hired me to come in there, climb in that car and win races. You certainly want to do that, and you don’t want to disappoint people. I’m glad we got a win, but it’s still only Week 3. I feel like this is the beginning.”