Sometimes the top five in an intense sport like NASCAR are in the top point standings, and sometimes they are a part of those few who have won a race in 2013. Right now, only Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth have won a race in the fresh 2013 NASCAR season.
The 2013 Kobalt Tools 400 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the 1.5-mile tri-oval track with 14-degree banking—is fast history. But not all of the winners have ascended to a top-five spot.
Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne to take the checkered flag. Kenseth moved up 11 spots to take seventh place and Kahne jumped 17 positions to occupy 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings.
Jimmie Johnson held on to his first-place standing just ahead of the ascending Brad Keselowski and team. Carl Edwards broke into the top five after missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year.
All five drivers had vivid comments on the fast Las Vegas race in the desert.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“We were racing really hard,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to race that fast. We were flying (laughs). But at the end, I just wish we had a little bit more to go up there and race with those guys. But it was a solid performance, all in all.”
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Whether you have tires or not,” Keselowski said. “You still have to have a great car to be able to make things happen, and I think Matt definitely had a great car today, probably not as good as this guy, but Matt is a great racer, and he understands the sport very well. He's not the guy you want to have to beat on old tires, that's for sure. He never has been.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“We were sliding all over the place out there,” Edwards said. “I am sure we wore out some steering boxes and that was a good race. That was as hard as we could drive. Congrats to Matt (Kenseth) and those guys. He drives his heart out. That one restart he got sideways and I hit him just hard enough that I thought maybe I could straighten him up and go. It worked good for him and terrible for me. That was a wild race and some hard driving right there.”
Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
“Man, this is awesome,” Kenseth said. “I just knew it. I just feel really good about this group. I really feel like this is just the beginning. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) is pretty much the man.”
Kenseth about holding off a charging Kasey Kahne:
“With about 12 (laps) to go because I thought we were going to lose it, I was getting tight and especially as we caught them lapped. I didn’t think I was going to hold him off. It’s good that we had all this great power under the hood from TRD—I don’t think we could have held him off. I was slow across the middle because I was too tight. Man, that thing was just grunting to stay in front of him.”
Kenseth celebrated a win and his 41st birthday Sunday.
“I was kind of bummed out about being 29. Since we’re standing here with a win—I’ll take it.”
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
“I just had an awesome car,” Kahne said. “It felt about perfect, I think, throughout three quarters of that race.
“Matt did everything right. When I caught him, I was like, man, this is not the guy you want to have to race with 10 to go because he's going to do everything right. You're going to have to figure out how to squeeze by him. And you know he had a fast car, too, so it was difficult. He did a perfect job and we came back second.”
All top finishes are hoping their next car at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday will be perfect or close to it.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.