Race Report: Las Vegas

A wild weather day that included a little rain, heavy winds and even sand storms ended with Kyle Busch leading Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish during today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin finished 18th and 19th respectively, while a late race accident left Matt Kenseth back in 37th.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota from the 23rd position but patiently worked his way toward the front at his home track as he moved into the top 15 prior to a competition caution on lap 31. Busch would enter the top ten for the first time shortly after the restart. The heavy winds would add to the challenge of finding the proper handle on the racecar, but crew chief Adam Stevens would continue to make adjustments to help the M&M’S Camry turn better in the corners. He would line up sixth for a restart on lap 223 and used an amazingly aggressive move first to the top of the track and then to the bottom to vault his way into the lead. He would go on to lead the next 38 laps of the race. As the laps began to wind down Busch would radio in to his team that the car had become tight and he was experiencing a significant vibration that might indicate he had a tire going down. With just five laps remaining Busch would have to give up the lead to the No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski and he would drop back a couple more spots over the final laps to finish the day in fourth.

Carl Edwards qualified the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the 24th position but an accident during the second round of qualifying Friday evening left the team no choice but to bring out the backup car resulting in a start from the back of the field. Edwards wasted no time however in making his way through all the traffic as he was up to 30th by lap 15. He would continue his climb through the field and shortly after lap 100 he would find himself racing in the top 10. Edwards was racing in the top 10 late when he would get spun from behind while checking up to avoid an accident in front of him on lap 226. The No. 19 ARRIS Camry would come down pit road and the loss of track position would prove costly as Edwards lined up back in 22nd for the restart. He would gain four spots prior the checkered flag to finish 18th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the ninth position and was running in the top ten prior to a lap 32 competition caution. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call for two tires on the first change of the day allowing the FedEx Camry to restart first. Hamlin managed to make the most out of the track position for a few laps at least. He would lead 10 total laps before the older two tires began to prove detrimental. Hamlin would end up falling back outside the top ten on the ensuing green flag run. He would battle tight conditions for much of the remainder of the afternoon while racing for a spot inside the top 15. Hamlin would go on to finish the race in 18th.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in the third position and was strong throughout the day. He would get the opportunity to lead for a total of nine laps just past the 200-lap mark of the race. Kenseth was running fifth on lap 225 when he was spun and then took a hard hit from the 24 car. It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise strong afternoon for the DEWALT team. Kenseth would have to take the car to the garage and his day was over. He would be scored back in 37th position for the day.

Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 26 laps and 20 lead changes among 10 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remain out west next Sunday with a trip to Phoenix International Raceway. Live coverage on Fox will start Sunday, March 13 at 2 PM ET (race starts at 2:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.