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.
“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.”
Stephen Furst/Myracenews.com Photo
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.