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NASCAR Las Vegas postscript - Happy Birthday Matt

by Dave Grayson
Monday, March 11, 2013

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Busch and Kahne both proved you can pass with the Gen 6 car
Getty Images for NASCAR
Viva Las Vegas and happy birthday Matt Kenseth. During the NASCAR weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway we watched Sprint Cup veteran Matt Kenseth collect some very nice birthday presents, we watched Kasey Kahne's display of power, we watched evidence that said you can indeed make a competitive pass in the new Generation Six car and, somehow, Danica Patrick got hit in the head with a rock.

THUMBS-UP. Matt Kenseth led the final 40 laps of the Kobalt Tools 400 and scored his 25th NASCAR Sprint Cup win along with his third win at Las Vegas and his first win for new team owner Joe Gibbs in only three starts. Kenseth also presented Toyota with their 50th Sprint Cup win.

THUMBS-UP. Jason Ratcliff, Kenseth's crew chief, made a very gusty late race call that placed his driver in position for the win. Coming off of a yellow flag, with only 44 laps remaining in the race, the front runners came down pit road for what was perceived to be their final stop of the day. That's when Kenseth was surprised by a call for a fuel only stop. The team sent their Toyota back down pit road in under four seconds  but with four extremely old tires on the car. It turned out to be the winning move.

Matt Kenseth wins on his birthday
Getty Images for NASCAR
THUMBS-UP. Kenseth's win came on his 41st birthday. His post race celebration raised the question: which produces the most smoke, a tire burn out from a high powered Toyota or 41 candles on a birthday cake? The post race birthday presents were also very nice and included a giant, silver plated, Kobalt Tools wrench and a winner's check worth $403,466.

THUMBS-UP. Kasey Kahne's performance, leading to a second place finish, during this race was simply awesome. His Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was a factor from start to finish and he led a race high 114 laps. Had it not been for a traffic related pit road situation, that cost Kahne time and track position, the outcome of the race may have been drastically different. When the Fox broadcast team announces "Kasey Kahne is coming like yesterday's train," then you know the driver is having an awesome race.

WHAT'S-UP. The weather offered no cooperation in Las Vegas on Friday and all scheduled activities were completely washed out. The Sprint Cup team did get their practice sessions in on Saturday but they were held under heavy, rain loaded, clouds and chilly temperatures. It was a far cry from Sunday race day's sunny skies and a hot track temperature that led to issues of no tire grip and a slick race surface. The drastic weather change led to ill handling race cars and frustrated drivers and crew chiefs. A lot of pre race favorites struggled throughout much of the race while making very aggressive handling changes during pit stops.

THUMBS-UP. The weather related handling situations did produce some rather interesting racing terms heard over the driver's in car radio systems. Greg Biffle said his car was "dirt tracking-super sideways sliding-loose." Jimmie Johnson told his crew chief that he had "a lazy front end," while eventual race winner Matt Kenseth said he "lost his nose in turn two."

THUMBS-UP. There's been a lot of comments that said NASCAR's new Generation Six race cars needed a lot of work to improve their ability to be competitive, especially in the area of passing. NASCAR had to be thrilled with what they saw during the Kobalt Tools 400. There was plenty of passing from the front of the field all the way to the back markers. Some of that passing often involved three wide moves and, in one case, even a four wide move down the backstretch. The fact that the Sprint Cup Series has now ran three races that turned up three different winners in three different makes of cars should be viewed as a testament to the competitive nature of the car. Fox broadcaster Larry McReynolds probably put in best when he said "I'm done with any discussion that says you can't pass with this car."

THUMBS-UP. Kevin Harvick took time to show the SPEED Channel his sports training watch, the latest development in monitoring a driver's physical fitness. Following a 20 minute on track period, during Saturday's practice session, Harvick's watch indicated that his heart rate was 160 beats per minute and he had burned off 340 calories during the short practice period. When asked what surprised him the most from the information he obtained from the watch, Harvick replied: "how fast the heart rate returns to normal, that's always a good thing." By the way, after finishing the race Harvick burned more than 2,000 calories during the Kobalt Tools 400.

WHAT'S-UP. The week in Las Vegas was filled with five days of racing that included two mid week appearances by the fabulous Word Of Outlaws sprint car series held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's one half mile dirt track. Danica Patrick was on hand to watch the second WOO race when, all of a sudden, she fell to the ground. It turned out that the rear tire from one of the powerful sprint cars slung a rock off of its rear tire that struck Patrick in the head. She was checked out and declared to be okay. She later said it was lucky she was wearing a hat otherwise the rock might have drawn blood.

THUMBS-UP. During the Las Vegas weekend it was announced that Patrick has been nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award in the category of Favorite Female Athlete. Other nominees in the category are Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas along with professional tennis players Venus and Serena Williams. The awards ceremony will be aired by Nickelodeon on March 23d at 8pm eastern time.

WHAT'S-UP. Also during the Las Vegas week, the Miller Coors Distributors held a convention in the Marriott Hotel with special guest Brad Keselowski. The Miller Lite Penske Racing Ford was also on display in the conference room. Somewhere during the course of the evening someone decided that it would be a great idea for Keselowski to do a NASCAR style burnout in the race car. The reigning Sprint Cup champion was only happy to oblige and the Miller Coors Distributors loved it. That's the good news. The bad news is: The power from the Roush Yates engine in Keselowski's Ford Fusion, combined with the Goodyear racing tires, really did a number on the conference room's carpeting. This was followed by reports that said the Marriott management was less than thrilled by the presentation.

That raises an interesting question: if NASCAR decided to look into this incident, exactly what official policy would be applied here? Would it be "actions detrimental to the sport of NASCAR racing", or would it be "have at it boys?"

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