Who hit it big in NASCAR's annual trip to Las Vegas and who came home empty-handed? Here is this week's edition of winners and losers:
Joe Gibbs Racing
Thanks to engines that have proven to be anything but reliable, no team in the garage was under more scrutiny through the first three weeks of the season than Joe Gibbs Racing. But even as its motors continually erupted into a ball of smoke, the team stayed the course, maintaining that the issues weren't related and the problem appeared worse than it was, due to the timing.
Although Kyle Busch thought he had an engine issue about halfway through the race, this later proved to be nothing, and for the first time all year, JGR made it through an entire weekend unscathed. And wouldn't you know it, the organization won its first race of 2013 with its other two cars finishing fourth and 15th, respectively.
After taking one on the chin thanks to its head-scratching decision to fine Denny Hamlin, the sanctioning body had a Sunday that should help put the events of last week in the rearview mirror -- albeit temporarily.
First, the Gen-6 performed better than it had previously at Daytona and Phoenix and produced a race that saw a record 31 green flag passes for the lead. Granted, that doesn't take into account that many of those occurred during pit stops, but it's still something for NASCAR to hang its hat on.
Then not only did one of the sport's more popular drivers find his way to Victory Lane, Matt Kenseth's win showed that parity is alive and well even with a new car as Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota have split the opening three races.
No, he didn't win like he had the week before -- heck, he didn't even lead a single lap. But by coming home fifth at Las Vegas, Carl Edwards is continuing to distance himself from 2012's underwhelming campaign, as he already has a victory and consecutive top-five finishes -- both of which he failed to do last season.
Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all ran in the top 10 for much of the afternoon, led laps and finished second, sixth and seventh, respectively. But as the trio was excelling, the fourth member of Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon, pulled a disappearing act that saw him struggling through a miserable race and finish one lap down in 25th.
It wasn't that Danica Patrick struggle in Las Vegas; it was the depth to which she struggled. From the onset she was significantly off the pace and was a lap down just 23 laps in, and when the checkered flag waved she ended the day 33rd, six laps behind the leaders.
More telling, Sunday marked the 11th time in 13 Cup starts that Patrick has finished 24th or worse.
In each race this season, Denny Hamlin has had a car good enough to win. Yet Hamlin not only doesn't have a victory, he has just one finish inside the top 10. How you view this likely depends on whether you're a glass half full or half empty type of person. Regardless, we can all agree that the No. 11 team has left a lot of points on the table and those things have a way of catching up to you -- just as it did a year ago to another driver at JGR, Kyle Busch.