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Kenseth wins gamble

Posted: Monday, March 03, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Matt Kenseth solidified Roush Racing's hold on Las Vegas Motor Speedway by winning the UAW-Daimler-Chrysler 400 on Sunday -- giving his team its fourth victory in the track's six-year Winston Cup history.

Kenseth, who won a Winston Cup-best five races last season, got incredible help in the pits -- his crew gave his Ford four tires in 13 seconds on their final stop -- to jump out to a huge lead and beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by 9.104 seconds.

Since NASCAR's Winston Cup Series began racing in Vegas in 1998, Roush drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Kenseth have all made it to Victory Lane. Burton did it back-to-back in 1999 and 2000.

Michael Waltrip finished third in a Chevrolet and took over the Winston Cup points lead. He was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

Burton was sixth. Ryan Newman came back from falling two laps down early in the race to finish seventh in a Dodge.

Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemecheck and Steve Park rounded out the Top 10.

Only 11 cars finished on the lead lap, and the front five were all running individually at the end of the race with huge gaps between them on the 1.5-mile oval.

It meant the best racing was actually for sixth, seventh and eighth place and led to late-race contact between Marlin and Jimmie Johnson. The two were running side-by-side when Marlin wiggled just a bit coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap and tapped Johnson, sending him spinning through the infield grass.

Johnson wound up 11th, the last car on the lead lap.

It was a strange weekend for the Roush Racing cars, starting Friday when rookie Greg Biffle failed to qualify for the race.

Third-year Roush driver Kurt Busch came into his home track on an incredible roll -- he won three of the final five races last year and started this season with consecutive second-place finishes to take over the points lead-- finally cooled where he wants to win the most.

The rear of his Ford was damaged early in the race when he banged against the wall, then the car was crumpled when he was caught in a wreck that began when Mike Skinner spun out Rusty Wallace.

Furious, Busch sat inside his car with his window net up while his crew tried to make enough repairs to get him back on the track. They didn't and finished 38th, dropping to sixth in the points.

Mark Martin, the only driver to finish in the Top 10 in each of the first six races in Las Vegas, had that streak snapped when he blew an engine and finished 43rd.

Kenseth was in command for most of the final 100 laps. He had a 4-second lead after the final round of stops and built it to more than 9 seconds by the checkered flag.



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