Happy Birthday: Kenseth wins at Las Vegas

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Matt Kenseth gave himself a nice present for his 41st birthday, turning back Kasey Kahne to win the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kenseth, who became the third driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to win on his birthday (Kyle Busch and Cale Yarborough, who did it twice), took the lead under yellow on pit road with 42 laps to go after he and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team elected not to take any tires. The 2003 Cup champion then had to battle Kahne, who drew within striking distance in the final laps but was unable to get by for a winning pass.

“I was real nervous all day,” Kenseth told Fox Sports in Victory Lane about Kahne stalking him in the late stages. “[Kahne] had the best car, and I told [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] with about 12 to go, I apologized to him like ‘Sorry, man, I’m gonna get beat.’ I was being too tight and I was killing the right front. I just had to make sure I stayed in front of [Kahne].

“We didn’t have quite the fastest car there in the end, but we had it where we needed it to be. Great pit stops, great pit strategy — we were in the right place at the right time and we took advantage of it today.”

Kahne led the most laps of any driver with 114 circuits paced, but had to settle for second place. Brad Keselowski posted a third-place result, with Las Vegas’ own Kyle Busch and last week’s winner Carl Edwards coming home fourth and fifth respectively.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Kobalt Tools 400

Top 10 Finishers

1. Matt Kenseth, Toyota, led 42 laps

2. Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, led 114 laps

3. Brad Keselowski, Ford, led 12 laps

4. Kyle Busch, Toyota, led 27 laps

5. Carl Edwards, Ford

6. Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, led 66 laps

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet

8. Martin Truex Jr., Toyota

9. Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet

10. Paul Menard, Chevrolet

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”