Kenseth is the luckiest man in Vegas

Kenseth is the luckiest man in Vegas

Matt Kenseth came up with the royal flush at Las Vegas, earning him his seventh career Winston Cup victory, and sixth win in his last thirteen starts. Roush Racing has won five of the last eight Winston Cup races and four of the last six ran at ...

Matt Kenseth came up with the royal flush at Las Vegas, earning him his seventh career Winston Cup victory, and sixth win in his last thirteen starts. Roush Racing has won five of the last eight Winston Cup races and four of the last six ran at Vegas.

Race winner Matt Kenseth and Jack Roush celebrate.
Photo by Autostock.

"Just awesome pit crew," said Kenseth. "We had some turnover in the winter, [but] these guys are still the world champions. They worked really hard to get me out of the pits. It was key to be out front.

"Seems like the Fords had trouble keeping up behind, but when we got out front we could sail."

Kenseth's win furthers Roush's domination at the Vegas 1.5-mile tri-oval, teammate Jeff Burton also had a stellar run, bringing the No. 99 Citgo Ford home sixth. Other Roush cars did not fair as well; Greg Biffle failed to make the event, Mark Martin suffered engine failure at lap 114 and Kurt Busch would have numerous problems before a multi-car wreck at lap 176 finished his day. Busch charted a 38th place finish.

After a lightning-quick final green flag pit stop that placed Kenseth in front of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., he easily led the next 88 laps for the win.

Earnhardt seems to have recuperated from poor finishes in the series' first two events, and scored second place and led a race-high 98 laps. He was followed to the finish by teammate Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte and Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart.

"We were good," said Earnhardt. "That's how good we are supposed to be. We expect that out of ourselves every week. I'm just glad we finally got the results we know we can produce.

"Maybe that will shut a few of the critics up and we can go on and race next week."

Waltrip's third-place finish is enough to catapult him into the Winston Cup points lead after Sterling Marlin, coming to the line at the race's final circuit, bumped Jimmie Johnson, sending Johnson spinning into the grass.

"We were slipping back through the pack," said Johnson. "Racing hard at the end to try and stay in the top ten there, and get every point that I could and we went into three and the No. 40 got into me.

"I don't know. I saw the video on TV. I really don't know what's happened at this point, hope it wasn't intentional. I raced clean with everybody all day long, didn't put a tire mark on anyone, then I get turned coming to the checkers and loose a few more spots."

"So, it kinda bums me out," the downbeat Johnson summed up.

Johnson finished 11th, dropping him to third in points, 14 points behind Waltrip, while Marlin finished 8th.

Waltrip seemed more excited about his third place finish than being at the front of the points race. He decided to take the No. 15 Chevy on a victory spin of its own through the infield grass.

"Man, when you're a redneck that grass is inviting," said Waltrip. "I wanted to slide through it so bad, and I didn't win. So, I figured what the heck, I'm going to slide through it anyway."

Ryan Newman managed to come back from a two-lap deficit to score 7th, Joe Nemechek 9th and Steve Park rounds out the top ten.

Polesitter Bobby Labonte brought the field to the green under the first sparkling blue skies of the weekend. Labonte, however, was not able to hold off the hard charging second place Hendrick No. 24 Chevy of Jeff Gordon. Gordon blew past Labonte to lead not only the races first circuit, but also Gordon's first lap of 2003. Gordon shot out to a 3-car length advantage over the grid, as Labonte slid back to sixth.

Lap 15 saw Dale Earnhardt, Jr. begin to build a head of steam in the No. 8 DEI Chevy, as he approached the second place Ford of Kurt Busch. Gordon's pace placed him 1.9 seconds in front of the other leaders.

Gordon's blistering lap times began to put cars a lap down as early as lap 43, but on lap 51 the rocket ship piloted by Earnhardt finally caught Gordon and took the lead for the first time. At this point, only 33 of the 43 starters remained on the lead lap. Following Earnhardt were Gordon, teammate Waltrip, Bobby Labonte and Jimmie Johnson.

The race continued under a long green flag condition with Earnhardt in the lead until lap 90, when the DEI No. 15 Chevy of Michael Waltrip made his bid to get around his teammate. Waltrip took the high line and within four laps he passed Earnhardt for the lead. Jeff Gordon remained third followed by Johnson and Bobby Labonte.

At lap 101, the races long green flag run finally came to a halt, as the No. 32 Pontiac of Ricky Craven made contact with Larry Foyt causing Craven to slide across the infield grass. All 21 cars on the lead lap entered the pits. Earnhardt won the race off pit road and once again regains the race lead followed by Waltrip, Johnson, Bobby Labonte, Nemechek, Busch, Kenseth, Stewart, Jeff Burton and Jarrett.

The biggest loser on those pit stops is Jeff Gordon, who had a lug nut hang in the socket, which caused a 24-second stop. He came into the pits 4th and exited 12th.

Hometown hero, Kurt Busch's lady luck starts to go sour at lap 113, as he makes contact with the wall but does not bring out the caution.

Mark Martin on lap 116 looses an engine and will have to take the No. 6 Roush Ford to the garage bringing out the races second caution. Mark finished 43rd.

During the ensuing pit stops Michael Waltrip elected to stay out and became the race leader followed by Nemechek, Earnhardt, Jr., Johnson, Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Stewart, Jarrett, Spencer and Benson. After a long stop to fix right rear damage on Busch's car from contact with the wall, he restarted in 20th.

Barely one lap passed, before Earnhardt motored past Nemechek and Waltrip and moved back into the number one spot.

Elliott Sadler's day went up in a smoke cloud at lap 126, as the No. 38 RYR Ford lost an engine causing the day's third yellow to be unfurled. Sadler finished 42nd.

Sadler's teammate, Dale Jarrett's luck did not hold either, as lap 131 saw Jarrett get bumped by the No. 1 DEI Chevy of Steve Park which sent Jarrett into the outside wall and out of the event. Jarrett finished 41st.

"Got hit," said Jarrett. "Not much else you can say. Try and give people plenty of room, the car was pretty good, just trying to get ourselves to the point to see what we could do at the end."

Vegas, a track that traditionally has a low number of cautions, suddenly today became a demolition derby; matching the track record for cautions. Jamie McMurray brought out number four with a spin on the backstretch. McMurray ended up 32nd.

Todd Bodine.
Photo by Autostock.

That caution sees the entire lead lap cars come in for pit stops. Jeff Gordon took 2-tires for position and leave the pits first followed by Kenseth, Earnhardt, Johnson and Sterling Marlin.

Gordon's two tires, however, could not hold back the faster cars of Kenseth, Earnhardt and Johnson who put Gordon 3 positions back within 2 circuits.

Four time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon's bad day would just keep getting worse. At lap 176, Gordon got swept up in a multi-car wreck with Mike Skinner, Kurt Busch, Larry Foyt, Rusty Wallace, Mike Skinner, Todd Bodine and Jimmy Spencer.

"It just wasn't our day," lamented Gordon. "I'm fine. Unfortunately, we had that little problem in the pits and it put us back there. We were playing catch up.

"Had a good race car. Real good race car. I think eventually we could have gotten back up there and battled with them. We had to take two-tire stop to get some track position. I think we were still going to end up being pretty good. We fell back a little.

"Look like the No. 4 got loose and got into Rusty. I tried to slow it down, and the more I tried to slow it the more I was in the middle of it."

Gordon was able to get the No. 24 Chevy back onto the track at lap 235, he finished 37th.

The action continued under green flag conditions after the fifth caution for the multi-car accident. The somewhat long no caution run, however, saw Earnhardt begin to slow and skate backwards through the top five.

Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Roush Ford took this opportunity to race past for the lead and continued at the front after the races final green flag stops came at lap 235. Kenseth emerged at the top of the heap followed by Johnson, Waltrip, Earnhardt and Todd Bodine.

With 10 laps left on the board, Kenseth had sailed forward putting a huge gap between his Ford and the rest of the field. In second place ran Waltrip pursued by Earnhardt, Johnson, Labonte, Stewart, Jeff Burton, Marlin, Newman and Nemechek.

By the final two laps of the Vegas event, Kenseth had blasted past the competition and achieved a 10-second gap between his Ford and the second place Chevy of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Kenseth now has the most victories in the last two seasons on the Winston Cup circuit. He scored a series-high five victories last season, but this is his first win of 2003.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Larry Foyt , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Jamie McMurray , Jack Roush , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin