HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 7, 2016) – Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the No. 83 Cosmo Motors Toyota Camry, finished in the 31st position on Sunday in the third event of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after battling handling issues for much of the afternoon. Teammate David Ragan, driver of the No. 23 Dr Pepper Toyota Camry, finished in the 32nd position.
“Gene (Nead, crew chief) and the Cosmo Motors team didn’t give up all weekend despite the challenges we had,” DiBenedetto said. “We’re going to continue to work hard as we head to Phoenix.”
“We started the race off really tight,” Ragan said. “Patrick (Donahue, crew chief) made some good adjustments during the first half of the race as we worked to dial in the No 23 Dr Pepper Toyota Camry. We fought an ill-handling car and the wind all day long, making it for a very tough Kobalt 400. Hats off to our pit crew, they did a great job all day. We are going to keep working hard to get our Toyota faster and more consistent.”
Rain and winds gusting in excess of 35 mph delayed the start of the race before sunshine prevailed. NASCAR threw the green flag about 30 minutes after the scheduled start. Ragan started 31st with teammate DiBenedetto 34th on the 1.5-mile track.
As the laps ticked away, DiBenedetto and Ragan ran consistent lap times en route to the checkered flag.
Next week the BK Racing team travels to Phoenix International Raceway for week two of NASCAR Goes West. The Good Sam 500 (k) will be on Sunday, March 13 with coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on FOX.
The prevalent theme as they prepared to start the Kobalt 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was wind. 30 plus mile an hour winds and a brief rain shower delayed the start of today’s race for 25 minutes and presented unique situations for drivers and teams. Potential slick track conditions from high wind, blowing sand and garbage on the track made today’s race more challenging than any in recent memory. Several of the teams had to dismantle the canopy tops on their pit boxes prior to the race as the wind was tearing them apart.
Home town driver Kurt Busch in the #41 Monster Energy Drink/Haas Automaton Chevrolet and the #22 Joey Logano in the Shell Pennzoil brought the wind blown field of 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup around for the start. Kyle jumped out to a big lead from the drop of the green flag. Amazingly the high winds did not seem to affect the drivers as cars were running 2 and 3 wide through out the field.
Early on the race looked like a mirror of Saturdays Xfinity race except today the fastest car was #41 Kurt Busch not his brother #18 Kyle Busch who dominated the Xfinity race on Saturday leading 199 of 200 laps for the victory.
A competition caution on lap 30 allowed the teams to come to pit road, change ties add fuel and make adjustments. Unfortunately for the #41 Kurt Busch who lead all 30 laps to start the race was too fast on pit road and was sent to the rear on the restart. A 35th place restarting spot would make the rest of the day an uphill climb.Kurt would get a hard earned 9th place finish. He would voice his displease at NASCAR over the current procedure to judge pit road speeds using the tachometer.
Crew chief for #11 FedEx Toyota Denny Hamlin, Michael Wheeler choose to only take 2 tires on that caution and go to the front of the field, that worked for a few laps but he began to drop through the pack falling out of the top 15, . Now after the Daytona 500 win in February Denny has taken a couple of steps back with a 16th place finish at Atlanta and now a 19th place finish at Las Vegas.
#20 Matt Kenseth in his DeWalt Toyota had to pit off sequence on the first long green flag run of the day after developing a vibration,wheel weight that was missing causing a vibration. Luckily for Matt after green flag pit stops cycled through Matt found himself back in 4th place. Lap 98 debris caution, which is what #20 Matt Kenseth needed to get him on the same pit strategy.
After that restart a first time leader took command, Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Kobalt Chevrolet. I am sure Jimmie would want to win the race for his teams sponsor and showed it y taking the lead and keeping it for many laps.
Austin Dillon in the Childress Motorsports #3 who made a sponsor announcement today had a frustrating day early on. First the team decided to take 4 tires on an early green flag pit stop and it put the #3 Dow Chemicals Chevrolet back in 20th spot. Austin then got a speeding penalty on it road that cost him a lap. Austin would battle back all day to a 5th place finish.
At the 100 laps to go mark the #48 of Jimmie Johnson was dominating the race, leading the most laps and continuing to hold the #22 Pennzoil Chevrolet of Joey Logano a bay. At this point in the race only 17 cars remained on the lead lap.
Shortly after #22 Joey Logano passed Jimmie Johnson a caution for debris in turn one came out bunching up the field. Jimmie Johnson must not have been happy with #16 Greg Biffle who 2 laps down side drafted the #48 which cost him the lead. Jimmie would still end up a solid 3rd on the day. On this caution #2 Brad Keselowski took his turn speeding in the pits costing yet another driver a penalty.
On the restart with 82 to go Joey Logano continued to lead but they were fighting like mad behind him including the #41 of Kurt Busch who has made his way back to 4th place.
The first yellow not brought out by debris or a competition yellow was brought out when the #42 of Kyle Larsen hit the wall with 69 laps to go. Teams still could not go all the way to the finish with this pit stop.
At this point in the race a huge dust storm kicked up as they were getting ready to go to green. The wind was howling, the temperature was dipping and there was even a few rain drops outside of the media center.
On the restart with 43 laps to go #18 Kyle Busch charged to the lead when all hell finally broke loose behind. With #20 Matt Kenseth breaking loose and collecting the #24
NAPA Auto Parts of Chase Elliot who hit Matt wide open destroying both cars. Chase Elliot was sent to the infield care center and released.
After struggling with the #18 M & M’s all weekend the team worked hard, made several adjustments and made that car faster. Most of the day he ran back in the pack but when the time came to go in the last 50 laps Kyle’s car came to life. Pit strategy also helped Kyle get the front taking left side tires only.
But that decision would bite Kyle very late in the race. When while still having a commanding lead he radioed in reporting issues with the right front. #22 Joey Logano and the #2 of Brad Keselowski were beginning to close at a faster and faster pace. Brad was able to pass Joey and set his sights on Kyle Busch who was slowing on the track but still giving it everything he had in trying to sweep the weekend.
The final pass for the lead took place with 6 laps to go when a slowing #18 Kyle Busch lost his bid to win both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup race in the same weekend. #2 Brad Keselowski passed Kyle and never looked back for his first win of the season
Top 5 Kobalt 400 finishers, Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 6th 2016
Brad Keselowski #2 Miller Lite Ford
Joey Logano #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford
Jimmie Johnson #48 Kobalt Chevrolet
Kyle Busch #18 M&M Toyota
Austin Dillon #3 Dow Energy & Water/Intellifresh Chevrolet
Next race: Good Sam 500 at the Pheonix International Speedway Sunday March 13th broadcast on Fox at 3:30 Eastern.
After spending 9 years on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour, Ryan took that next step up the ladder in 2016 moving up to one of the top tier divisions in NASCAR, the Xfinity series. This season Ryan will drive the NASCAR Xfinity series G & K Services Chevrolet #01 full time.
While Ryan’s year did not start well at Daytona in February when he only recorded 31 laps and finished last, Atlanta was a different story. Ryan ran the entire race and although he ended the day 4 laps down he finished 22nd after starting 21st.
On Saturday in his first visit to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Ryan made it through 2 rounds of qualifying starting a solid 20th place.
During the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Ryan did not have the start he would have hoped for. Ryan bounced off the wall coming out of turn 4 on lap 2 and bounced into Corey LaJoie sending Corey into a spin through the inner oval. The rest of the race went much better for Ryan, while Ryan finished the race 3 laps down he stayed out of trouble ending up with an 18th place finish out of 40 starters.
Prior to the race we spoke to Ryan in the media center and asked him about his experience in the Xfinity series.
Ryan said he is learning, always learning. He said that that driving Xfinity car is totally different than what he is used to in his modified. In a modified he charged into the corner and these cars you want to lift but you know aren’t going to. He does feels he is getting more comfortable in the full -fendered car every week.
Going into Saturdays race he felt very good about the car after last week’s Atlanta race gave them a starting point of where to be on a mile and a half track. They progressively made improvements to the car and carried what they learned into this weeks race at Las Vegas. Ryan’s philosophy is to build every week and he feels they are doing that. With time Ryan feels they are going to get better and better.
Ryan was very happy with Saturdays qualifying run and his getting into the second round of qualifying. His second round was 2 tenths faster than the first round and as Ryan said “improving, always improving”. In the race his goals were finish the race which he did and gain respect from the other drivers, other than the lap 2 incident he stayed out of trouble, passed a many race cars and got a well deserved 18th place finish.
Veteran drivers like Ryan Newman and TBR driver Regan Smith have been helping him all season as he speaks to both regularly seeking advice.
Experience is everything and he is getting that every week. In the Johnny Davis Motorsports #01 Ryan believes they have a team that with time they will be a consistent top 15 or even top 10 team.
Next week Ryan will be at another new track, the one mile Phoenix International Raceway for the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 getting that valuable track time and experience.