Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart hit the wall in the DAYTONA 500.
Veteran won Sprint Unlimited, posted strong time in qualifying Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – He won the Sprint Unlimited and posted the fourth fastest time in the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (which became the third fastest in the final round after teammate Denny Hamlin's time was disallowed). Matt Kenseth is looking more like the driver that won seven times in 2013 and less like the one who went winless last season. But there's a long way to go between qualifying for the 500 and taking the green flag in the season-opening race. Three more practice sessions (two on Wednesday and another on Thursday) are on tap, and that's just before this week's Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Thursday night. There are three more practices after the duels. "We got through the first two processes and now we need to get through the (qualifying race) with a good finish and get ready for Sunday," Kenseth said after locking in the No. 2 starting spot for Thursday's opening 60-lap, 150-mile race. "I feel like all our (cars) have been real competitive since we got here – we've got a lot of speed and that's encouraging, but it's speedway racing and anything can happen." Kenseth's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry will start alongside Daytona 500 pole winner Jeff Gordon in the opening duel. Help from his teammates was crucial during Sunday's qualifying, but Kenseth will have no such assistance come Thursday. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin will be lining up in the second qualifier, based on the odd-even pairing to set the two fields. Those three rolled into Daytona with new crew chiefs in tow – Darian Grubb with Edwards, Adam Stevens with Busch and Dave Rogers with Hamlin. Kenseth touched down with Jason Ratcliff, just as he did last year. Team owner Joe Gibbs said there no reason to pull the plug on the No. 20 pairing. "There was no thought there," he said. "We really felt like this is one team we wanted to leave matched up. "Each one of those other situations was a little bit different." Kenseth didn't make it to the winner's circle last year in a points-paying event, but Ratcliff doesn't sound too disappointed when ask about the results. "We had a great season. When you look at our overall performance, our top 10s, top fives … we had a lot of good opportunities," he said. "Having two years under out belt, I think it's a no-brainer. We're looking forward to a remarkable year." How a team fares here at Daytona may set the tone for the season, but it doesn't set the table. Restrictor-place races are few and far between on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. It's the intermediate tracks that are the meat and potatoes. And while history shows that Daytona 500 winners rarely go on to win the championship, that nugget doesn't take any of the shine off winning the series biggest race. Kenseth has been to Victory Lane here twice in the 500, both times while with Roush Fenway Racing. JGR drivers have won here once, and that was back in '93 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett driving. "We've been here 24 years. We've won once," Gibbs said. "It's extremely hard. … For us it has been gut‑wrenching. I can't tell you how many times we've been disappointed walking away from here." Getting a win in the Unlimited race, a non-points event, was big, Kenseth said, but it also afforded the team the opportunity to understand a few things that might be of use in the coming days. "I felt like we learned some things about the race car, the track and the tires a little bit," he said. "that will apply Thursday night. This is the only shot at it (in race conditions). "It's a great start. Hopefully we can keep the momentum for the rest of the week." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joe Gibbs Racing driver holds off Truex Jr., teammate Edwards Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Full Sprint Unlimited results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Matt Kenseth did what he couldn't do all of last year — win a race. And Martin Truex Jr., runner-up in Saturday night's 75-lap Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, did what he could do only once in 2014 — lead a lap. Coming to the finish line on the last lap, Kenseth blocked Truex’s move off Turn 4 and crossed the finish line in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .219 seconds ahead of Truex, who led four times for 28 laps after leading just one lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all of last season. The victory was Kenseth's first in the non-points race, but it was the second straight win for Joe Gibbs Racing. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race With only 12 of the 25 cars that started the race running at the finish, Carl Edwards came home third in his first run in a JGR Toyota, followed by Casey Mears and Kyle Larson. Joey Logano was sixth, but a last-lap altercation with reigning series champion Kevin Harvick (11th Saturday), left those two drivers jawing at each other after the finish. Logano was pushing Harvick after the final restart with four laps left, and Harvick felt the No. 22 Ford ran him up into the outside wall. Kenseth was worried when he saw Truex back out of the throttle on the final lap. "At the end there, Martin did an excellent job," Kenseth said. "He backed off me so far. I saw him letting off the gas before we got to Turn 1, and I was like 'Ah, this isn’t good.'... "I just decided I was going to keep going. He got a big run at me, but we just had enough speed that, as he starting getting closer to me, we started building a little bit of RPM, and I was able to make sure that my car stayed in front of his car and was able to hold on." Truex didn't get the help he needed from Edwards, who joined JGR during the offseason. But Truex was elated with the speed in his car after a very disappointing first year in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet in 2014. "I had more fun in the car tonight than I've had since 2013," said Truex, who raced for the first time with former team engineer Cole Pearn as his crew chief. "I only made one mistake tonight — and that was giving up the lead with handful of laps to go (Truex led for the last time on Lap 55). That’s what cost us the race." An early incident that KO'd the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski on Lap 23 was merely a prelude to the main event, a 14-car wreck on Lap 45 that erupted when the field accordioned out of Turn 4 and Greg Biffle tapped Jamie McMurray's bumper and sent the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet out of control. MORE: 'Big One' hits 14 cars Severely damaged in the accident that red-flagged the race for 15 minutes were the cars of McMurray, polesitter Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, defending race winner Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer among others. Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took a ride through the tri-oval grass. "It was a matter of time that we were going to wreck," Hamlin said. "We were side-drafting so aggressively from the first lap of the race… We were trying to get to front and protect our track position, because we knew this was coming. I just couldn't get there quick enough. "When you hit the grass now, it's death. It tore the front end of the car off." Subsequent wrecks eliminated Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon (Lap 62), as well as Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Biffle (Lap 68). The latter incident brought out the second red flag of the night, for 5 minutes 18 seconds. "You can tell we've been cooped up all winter long and we're ready to go," Stenhouse said ruefully. Note: The first caution of the race produced the first use of NASCAR's new pit road technology. Cameras flagged infractions by McMurray's crew (over the wall too soon) and driver Ryan Newman (passing through too many pit boxes), and officials on computer monitors in a NASCAR trailer confirmed the violations. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Kenseth holds off the field to win the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Matt Kenseth takes the checkered flag to win the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway
Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs talk about winning the Sprint Unlimited and starting the year strong.
Matt Kenseth celebrates a victory in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Matt Kenseth shares his thoughts of the final laps as Martin Truex Jr. dropped back to set up a run to the finish and hopes this trip to Victory Lane is the first of many in 2015.
Matt Kenseth talks about being ready to work with new team and crew members and what the new rules package means for NASCAR.
A stats-based look ahead to the third race of the Sprint Cup season Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada going into the KOBALT 400 on March 8. LAS VEGAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Cheez-It Ford) · Two top fives, six top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.5 · Average Running Position of 12.3, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, fifth-best · 150 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · 568 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.725 mph, fifth-fastest · 1,759 Laps in the Top 15 (65.4%), eighth-most · 281 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 11th-most Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 14.0, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · 108 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 584 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.610 mph, sixth-fastest · 1,857 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), sixth-most · 336 Quality Passes, fifth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 Comcast Toyota) · Two wins, five top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 9.2 · Average Running Position of 12.0, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 97.8, sixth-best · 159 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 636 Green Flag Passes, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.568 mph, seventh-fastest · 1,879 Laps in the Top 15 (69.8%), fourth-most · 390 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 15.0 · Average Running Position of 9.7, second-best · Driver Rating of 103.7, second-best · 181 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 548 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.927 mph, third-fastest · Series-high 2,130 Laps in the Top 15 (79.2%) · 385 Quality Passes, third-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · Three top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 11.6, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 94.5, eighth-best · 89 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 571 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.564 mph, eighth-fastest · 1,870 Laps in the Top 15 (69.5%), fifth-most · 316 Quality Passes, sixth-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet) · Four wins, five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 9.2 · Series-best Average Running Position of 8.9 · Series-best Driver Rating of 113.6 · Series-high 346 Fastest Laps Run · 553 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 171.233 mph · 2,090 Laps in the Top 15 (77.7%), third-most · 365 Quality Passes, fourth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet) · Three top fives, six top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 13.5 · Average Running Position of 14.3, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 10th-best · 94 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 609 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.170 mph, 11th-fastest · 1,735 Laps in the Top 15 (64.5%), ninth-most · 290 Quality Passes, 10th-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 D E WALT Toyota) · Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.5 · Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 98.1, fourth-best · 197 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.972 mph, second-fastest · 1,774 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most · 295 Quality Passes, ninth-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Pennzoil Ford) · One top five, two top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.3 · Average Running Position of 13.8, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 87.5, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.111 mph, 12th-fastest Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Three top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.3 · Driver Rating of 81.9, 12th-best · 37 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 1,667 Laps in the Top 15 (61.9%), 11th-most · 298 Quality Passes, seventh-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/ Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 14.0 · Average Running Position of 14.0, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 97.1, seventh-best · 188 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 538 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 170.498 mph, ninth-fastest · 1,733 Laps in the Top 15 (64.4%), 10th-most · 298 Quality Passes, seventh-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Joey Logano 6 1 0 1 2 0 12.3 87.5 2 Jimmie Johnson 13 0 4 5 8 0 9.2 113.6 3 Kevin Harvick 14 0 0 3 5 0 14.7 94.5 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15 0 0 3 8 2 14.7 91.5 5 Martin Truex Jr. 9 0 0 0 2 0 16.0 81.9 6 Casey Mears 11 0 0 0 3 0 20.9 57.3 7 Kasey Kahne 11 3 0 3 6 2 13.5 88.1 8 AJ Allmendinger 5 0 0 0 0 0 26.4 60.7 9 Aric Almirola 6 0 0 0 0 3 31.3 51.2 10 Clint Bowyer 9 0 0 1 3 0 17.8 74.2 11 David Gilliland 8 0 0 0 0 1 27.0 49.5 12 Sam Hornish Jr. 3 0 0 0 0 0 28.3 62.3 13 Greg Biffle 11 1 0 2 6 1 14.5 97.9 14 Carl Edwards 10 0 2 5 6 0 9.2 97.8 15 David Ragan 8 0 0 0 1 1 26.9 52.3 16 Danica Patrick 2 0 0 0 0 0 27.0 49.3 * – Based on last 10 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2005 – 2014). Las Vegas Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 3 of 36 (3-8-15) Track Size : 1.5-miles Banking/Turns 1 & 2 : 20 degrees Banking/Turns 3 & 4 : 20 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 9 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 9 degrees Frontstretch Length : 2,275 feet Backstretch Length : 1,572 feet Race Length : 267 laps / 400.5 Kilometers Top 10 Driver Ratings at Las Vegas Jimmie Johnson ........................ 113.6 Jeff Gordon .............................. 103.7 Kyle Busch ............................... 103.4 Matt Kenseth .............................. 98.1 Greg Biffle .................................. 97.9 Carl Edwards .............................. 97.8 Tony Stewart ............................... 97.1 Kevin Harvick .............................. 94.5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. ....................... 91.5 Kasey Kahne .............................. 88.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (10 total) among active drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Joey Logano, Ford 193.278 mph, 27.939 secs. 03-07-14 2014 race winner : Brad Keselowski, Ford 154.633 mph, (2:35:24), 03-09-14 Track qualifying record: Joey Logano, Ford 193.278 mph, 27.939 secs. 03-07-14 Track race record: Brad Keselowski, Ford 154.633 mph, (2:35:24), 03-09-14 At Las Vegas Motor Speedway: History · The construction to build the superspeedway known today as Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) began in 1995. Speedway Motorsports Inc. acquired the property in 1998. · The first NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race won by Ken Schrader on Nov. 2, 1996. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held on March 1, 1998, won by Mark Martin . · In 2006, the track was reconfigured to include progressive banking. Notebook · There have been 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. · 135 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas; 100 in more than one. · Two drivers have participated in all 17 races: Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon . · Dale Jarrett won the inaugural pole with a speed of 168.224 mph (32.773 secs.). · 11 drivers have poles at LVMS, led by Kasey Kahne with three (2004, 2007 and 2012). · Kyle Busch is the only driver to win consecutive poles at LVMS from (2008-‘09). · Youngest LVMS pole winner: Kyle Busch (3/2/2008 – 22 years, 10 months, 0 days). · Oldest LVMS pole winner: Dale Jarrett (3/4/2001 – 44 years, 3 months, 6 days). · 10 different drivers have won at LVMS, led by Jimmie Johnson (four). Three other drivers have multiple wins at Las Vegas: Matt Kenseth (three), Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards (each have two). · Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in wins at Las Vegas with seven, followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five. · Las Vegas-native Kyle Busch became the first and only driver to win from the pole, in 2009. · Only three LVMS races (17.6%) have been won from the front row: Kyle Busch, 2009 (pole); Carl Edwards, 2008 (second-place); Brad Keselowski , 2014 (second-place). · Four of the 17 races (23.5%) have been won from a top-five starting position at Las Vegas. · Eight of the 17 (47%) races have been won from a top-10 starting position at Las Vegas. · Four of the 17 races (23.5%) at Las Vegas have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 25th, by Matt Kenseth in 2004. · Youngest LVMS winner: Kyle Busch (03/01/2009 – 23 years, 9 months, 27 days). · Oldest LVMS winner: Sterling Marlin (03/03/2002 – 44 years, 7 months, 32 days). · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series in runner-up finishes at Las Vegas with three; followed by Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart with two each. · Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart lead the series in top-five finishes at Las Vegas with six each. · Mark Martin has 10 top-10 finishes, more than any other driver. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with nine top-10 finishes. · Carl Edwards leads the series in average finish at LVMS with a 9.200; Jimmie Johnson (9.231) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10. · There has been one green-white-checkered finish at Las Vegas: 2006 (270/267). · Kyle Busch made his first start and Kasey Kahne won his first pole at Las Vegas, in the same event (2004). · Aric Almirola made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2007. · Three drivers have won consecutive races at Las Vegas: Jeff Burton (1999, 2000); Matt Kenseth (2003, 2004) and Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the three to win three consecutive races (2005, 2006 and 2007). · Eight of the 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Las Vegas participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Mark Martin (1998; inaugural event) is the only driver to win at Las Vegas in his first appearance. · Tony Stewart competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 13 times before winning (2012); the longest span of any the nine winners. Stewart is the only driver to have made 10 or more attempts before his first win at LVMS. · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Las Vegas without visiting Victory Lane with 15. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas was the (3/12/2006) race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.045 second. · No driver has won the first three races of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The five drivers that have won the first two events of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season are: Matt Kenseth (2009), Jeff Gordon (1997), David Pearson (1976), Bob Welborn (1959) and Marvin Panch (1957). · Three reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win at Las Vegas the following season: Matt Kenseth (2004), Jimmie Johnson is the only one to do it multiple times (2007, 2010) and Tony Stewart (2012). · Three drivers have won at Las Vegas and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jeff Gordon (2001), Matt Kenseth (2003) and Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2007 and 2010). · Danica Patrick and Shawna Robinson are the only two female drivers to compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 22 21 3/9/2014 Danica Patrick 37 33 3/10/2013 Shawna Robinson 36 42 3/3/2002 · Only two car numbers have produced three or more Las Vegas NSCS wins: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 48 - Jimmie Johnson (2005-2007 and 2010) o No. 99 – Jeff Burton (1999, 2000) Carl Edwards (2008, 2011) MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView tod FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule