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

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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