There’s no better way to celebrate your birthday if you’re a racecar driver than to win, and Matt Kenseth did just that, winning the Kobalt Tools 400 Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In typical Matt Kenseth, fashion the 20 wasn’t the car to beat from start to finish but he methodically worked his way to the front from his 18th starting position. Then after opting, not to take tires on his final pit stop with 40 to go held off Kasey Kane, who had the best car of the day and led race high 114 laps, to get his first win with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Following Kenseth and Kane were Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards in the top 5 followed by Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Paul Menard to complete the top 10. Despite the success of his teammates Jeff Gordon finished 25th after battling an ill handling race car all day. Danica Patrick suffered the same fate as a poor driving race car relegated her to a 33rd place finish 5 laps off of the lead pace.
After a two rather dull races to begin the debut season for the Gen-6 Sprint Cup car Las Vegas delivered. Many experts believed that NASCAR’s new car would race best on the high banked mile and half tracks that dominate the Sprint Cup Schedule and the Gen-6 passed its first intermediate track test with flying colors. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has always been racy since its redesign in 2006, but today was one of the best races we’ve seen on an intermediate track in the last two years. Sunday’s race featured 22 lead changes compared to the last race at Vegas for the Car of Tomorrow (Gen-5) last year, which had, 16 and just 6 green flag lead changes last week in Phoenix.
The Kobalt Tools 400 was a driver’s race as even the leaders’ cars struggled with handling issues throughout the race, but that’s what often makes for a good race. If every runs the same speed and handles the same then no one can pass but when cars lose grip and thus lose the handling then that forces the drivers to explore different lines around the track in search of grip and that leads to passing.
So while the Vegas track deserves some credit for being conducive to good racing, so does NASCAR and the manufactures for building a car that puts the race back in the hands of the drivers by forcing them to search for grip. The number one adjustment that many feel would improve racing would be softer tires that fade faster thus creating more situations where drivers have to explore new lines once the tires lose grip.
No race will ever live up the expectations of all the fans; however, the fans must have realistic expectations. We will never have 40 cars running 4 wide on fire for 500 miles! NEVER! It’s just not the way it is, if you truly have realistic expectations considering the style of racing in the Sprint Cup series than today’s race was about as damn good as you’ll see outside of a super speedway or short track. The bottom line is that if you didn’t like today’s race I don’t have anything for ya, but if you did then the good news is Bristol is just a week away!
Will Rabb is a producer for Cumulus Broadcasting of Knoxville and the Vol Network, a University of Tennessee Graduate and lifelong sports fan. You can read more of his thoughts on the world of sports and everything else at twitter.com/thewillrabb.