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NASCAR Las Vegas 2013: Las Vegas presents big test for Gen-6 car

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Las Vegas NASCAR recap

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth won his first race with his new team, the Gen-6 car produced some exciting moments and Brad Keselowski is off to a strong start in defense of his championship.

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Kahne charges late, but has to settle for second

With fresher tires than leader Matt Kenseth and with a Chevrolet that had led a race-high 114 laps, it seemed a given that Kasey Kahne would find a way to work his way around Kenseth and speed off with the win in Sunday's NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kahne tried everything he could think of to pass the No. 20 car; one lap he would ease into the corner and the next he would dive in deep.

From there he would slide up the track hoping to use the high-groove and the accompanying momentum off the banking to propel himself into the lead. But the former Sprint Cup Series champion countered and moved his Toyota up a lane to force Kahne to pass him on the inside.

Although Kahne valiantly tried to work underneath Kenseth, he was never able to complete the pass and a win that just moments before seemed inevitable, instead turned into a hard-fought runner-up finish.

"Matt did everything right," Kahne said. "That's when I caught him. I was like, ‘Man, this is not the guy you want to have to race with 10 to go because he's going to do everything right. You're going to have to figure out how to squeeze by him.'

"And you know, he had a fast car, too, so it was difficult. He did a perfect job and we came back second."

While he didn't score his 15th career win, Kahne's fine result at Las Vegas did turn around a season that had gotten off to a bit of a sour start. A wreck in the early laps at Daytona and so-so run at Phoenix saw Kahne open the year with finishes of 36th and 19th, respectively. As such, he headed into Las Vegas well back in the championship order, 29th overall.

But as frequently happens at the beginning of the year, one great result will quickly shoot a driver up the standings and Kahne now finds himself 14th in points.

This in part explains why even though he may not have been victorious, the Hendrick Motorsports driver had a smile on his face as he recapped his battle with Kenseth -- one that included navigating around quite a few lapped cars.

"I was hoping maybe they'd run Matt's line and he'd have to go to the bottom and I thought maybe I could get a run that way," Kahne said. "I think we eased through six or seven lap cars there and most of them went to the bottom and you could pass them fairly easy.

"It wasn't too bad. It didn't slow Matt up at all, which I was hoping someone at some point would slow him up a touch, but it never happened."

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Kenseth wins NASCAR Las Vegas

Birthday boy Matt Kenseth sped to the win in the NASCAR Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Lots of Sunshine for NASCAR at Las Vegas

Nascar_2013_las_vegas_race_day_forecast_medium

Warm and sunny, that's the kind of weather you expect when in the Las Vegas desert, and that is what we are going to see for this afternoon. Temperatures this afternoon will be in the mid to upper 60 for the Kobalt Tools 400. There could be a slight breeze with wind gusts between 20 and 25 mph. After how the weekend started on Friday with rain, you couldn't ask for better NASCAR weather.

Conditions in Las Vegas, NV: Click here for Current Weather Conditions | Look at Doppler Radar | Mobile Friendly Site | Mobile Radar

Race Schedule: All Times Eastern

SUNDAY:
1 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup pre-race – Sunny – temp: 61
2 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup pre-race – Sunny – temp: 63
3 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 64
4 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 66
5 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 66
6 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 65

Please follow me on Twitter @NASCAR_WXMAN and like me on Facebook for the latest Weather updates through the week.

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How to watch Kobalt Tools 400

NASCAR makes its annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas.

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Hornish Jr. runs away with Vegas Nationwide race

Sam Hornish Jr. drove an absolutely dominant car to victory Saturday afternoon, streaking away from Kyle Busch during a seven-lap dash to the finish in the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The win was Hornish's second in NASCAR's Nationwide Series and his first since Nov. 12, 2011 at Phoenix. It was the first Las Vegas victory for Penske Racing in any NASCAR series and the first Nationwide triumph for crew chief Greg Erwin, a winning Sprint Cup crew chief who signed on with Penske during the offseason.

The Penske organization also collected its first victory after switching from Dodge to Ford between seasons.

Busch rolled across the finish line in second, 1.1 seconds behind Hornish. Brian Vickers ran third, followed by Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler. Bayne recovered from an early brush with the wall to post the fourth-place result.

Hornish, who led 114 of the 200 laps, leads the series by 19 points over Sadler, Justin Allgaier (15th Saturday) and Brian Scott (ninth).

It wasn't until race day that Hornish learned of the similarity between his name and that of the title sponsorship.

"I didn't know until this morning that this was the Sam's Town 300," Hornish said. "It's kind of cool that I was able to win it... It's great to get Penske Racing's first win back in a Ford.

"Man, the car was awesome today. It was a real joy to drive. I've got to thank all the guys on the Penske team for giving me an awesome car to race with. When you have a car that good, you're always worried something bad is going to happen or you'll get caught in somebody else's problem. I'm glad that didn't happen today."

Busch, who had dominated at Phoenix a week earlier, had an excellent car on Saturday-but not quite strong enough.

"It was a tough race out there today all around," Busch said. "Cars were really getting loose out there in the early stages of the race through the middle part of the race... The second-to-last run and the last run, I felt like our car was really good. There wasn't much else that we could do to make it better.

"Sam was just that much faster than us. He was beating us a little bit everywhere, all the way around the race track. Certainly, when he stepped on the gas, that thing would go forward in a hurry. Us two were kind of the class of the field, but he was the class of everybody."

Hornish dropped from the lead to third during pit stops on Lap 139, after NASCAR called a debris caution one lap earlier. Eight circuits after a restart on lap 145, Hornish regained the top spot, sailing past Busch and driving away.

Hornish led Busch by almost three seconds when Scott Lagasse Jr.'s spin in Turn 1 on Lap 182 caused the seventh caution of the race. The top seven cars stayed on track under the yellow while those behind them came to pit road for fresh rubber on Lap 184.

Four laps later, moments after Hornish led the field to the green flag, a hard wreck in Turn 2 involving rookie Kyle Larson, Joey Gase and Ryan Sieg slowed the race for the eighth time and left Larson's No. 32 Chevrolet Camaro a smoking ruin.

Larson, whose car flew into the catch fence on the final lap of the NNS season opener at Daytona, hastily climbed from his car as safety workers arrived with fire extinguishers.

Bayne and Larson made track-position plays on Lap 83, taking fuel only under caution for Robert Richardson Jr.'s spin in Turn 2. Though they started at the front of the field, the strategy backfired, as both Bayne and Larson hit the outside wall battling for the lead on Lap 87.

Larson, in the outside lane, crowded Bayne on the bottom as the drivers raced side by side. Bayne's No. 6 Ford broke loose, carrying both cars into the wall. Bayne remained on the lead lap, but Larson's No. 32 Chevrolet was damaged more extensively, and the rookie lost two laps during repairs.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Results

1. (7) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 200, $98520.

2. (23) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200, $60600.

3. (1) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 200, $45750.

4. (2) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 200, $39350.

5. (15) Elliott Sadler, Toyota, 200, $34850.

6. (4) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $34350.

7. (12) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $23900.

8. (18) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 200, $30425.

9. (3) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 200, $27735.

10. (31) Travis Pastrana, Ford, 200, $28350.

11. (5) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200, $26625.

12. (17) Brad Sweet, Chevrolet, 200, $26075.

13. (11) Nelson Piquet Jr. #, Chevrolet, 200, $25525.

14. (32) Dale Earnhardt Jr.(i), Chevrolet, 200, $19015.

15. (10) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 199, $25330.

16. (9) Reed Sorenson, Ford, 198, $24545.

17. (20) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 198, $24360.

18. (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 198, $24425.

19. (27) Johanna Long, Chevrolet, 198, $24515.

20. (40) Scott Lagasse Jr., Chevrolet, 198, $24680.

21. (22) Blake Koch, Toyota, 198, $23895.

22. (36) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, 197, $17760.

23. (37) Dexter Stacey #, Ford, 197, $17625.

24. (14) Hal Martin #, Toyota, 197, $23515.

25. (26) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 195, $23515.

26. (34) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 195, $23545.

27. (16) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 194, $23085.

28. (30) Juan Carlos Blum #, Ford, 193, $22940.

29. (29) Robert Richardson Jr., Chevrolet, 192, $22790.

30. (8) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 189, $22955.

31. (25) Daryl Harr, Chevrolet, 189, $22525.

32. (13) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, Accident, 182, $22415.

33. (38) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Accident, 181, $22300.

34. (19) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 167, $22189.

35. (28) Jason White, Toyota, 156, $22080.

36. (35) Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, Engine, 153, $14820.

37. (6) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 144, $14775.

38. (33) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 16, $14740.

39. (39) Chase Miller, Chevrolet, Vibration, 5, $14490.

40. (24) Eric McClure, Toyota, Oil Pump, 2, $20455.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. not worried about censorship

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never been shy about voicing his opinion. But in light of the $25,000 fine incurred by Denny Hamlin, it's easy to wonder if Earnhardt Jr. will start to be a little more mindful of his words.

NASCAR's most popular driver says there is no need to be concerned, as he is aware of what he can and can't say publicly.

"I think we were told a couple years ago to just sort of watch all the negative comments and tones," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "I thought it was clear to all of us to be careful how we said what was on our mind."

If that lesson wasn't clear before Hamlin's fine, it is something the garage is certainly aware of now.

But as Earnhardt Jr. sees it, that doesn't mean NASCAR is unwilling to listen to what drivers have to say -- good or bad. It just means that there is a way to go about expressing those opinions while the cameras and tape recorders aren't recording.

"I don't think (NASCAR) mind you coming up in the hauler and talking about what you think about the racing and how you think things could improve or what might improve things," he said. "I think that they're open to listening to that kind of stuff. We always want to get better and always want to strive to be better as a sport."

One way for drivers and series officials to exchange opinions and to offer feedback is the town hall type meeting. These meetings are usually held away from the race track and out of the glare of the media spotlight and, according to Earnhardt Jr., have been a source of many of the newer ideas that have made their way into the sport.

"I think that those meetings are very productive," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's a great way to get a lot of good ideas moving across the table and I think that a lot of the innovation that you've seen in the sport in the last probably five or six years has come from those discussions."

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More Sunshine for NASCAR in Las Vegas

Much better weather awaits the NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas as the Pacific storm system that washed out NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying and practice along with Nationwide practice has moved off to the east into Colorado and the Central United States. Few clouds will linger but temperatures will be warming up for the afternoon. Expect to see sunshine and clouds with afternoon temperatures in the upper 50s to the low 60s.

Nascar_2013_las_vegas_forecast_medium

Sunday is an even better day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Lots of sunshine and high temperatures a few more degrees warmer into the mid to upper 60s. Outside of the rain on Friday we will have a nice race weekend in the desert.

Conditions in Las Vegas, NV: Click here for Current Weather Conditions | Look at Doppler Radar | Mobile Friendly Site | Mobile Radar

Race Schedule: All Times Eastern

SATURDAY:
11:00 a.m ET
Nationwide Series practice – Mix of sun and clouds – temp: 50
12:00 p.m ET
Sprint Cup Series practice – Mix of sun and clouds – temp: 54
1:05 p.m ET
Nationwide Series qualifying – Mix of sun and clouds – temp: 57
2:35 p.m ET
Sprint Cup Series final practice – Mix of sun and clouds – temp: 59
4:15 p.m ET
Nationwide Series race – Mix of sun and clouds – temp: 60

SUNDAY:
1 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup pre-race – Sunny – temp: 61
2 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup pre-race – Sunny – temp: 63
3 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 64
4 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 66
5 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 66
6 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup race – Sunny – temp: 65

Please follow me on Twitter @NASCAR_WXMAN and like me on Facebook for the latest Weather updates through the week.

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Drivers voice their support in favor of Hamlin

One day after NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin $25,000 for "disparaging remarks" he made concerning the Generation 6 car, drivers expressed their support for him Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

While choosing his words carefully, Jeff Gordon questioned whether NASCAR had brought more attention to the issues surrounding the competitiveness of the Gen-6 car by slapping Hamlin with a fine for comments that had escaped the attention of many.

"Maybe it's just me, but certainly this thing has blown up after yesterday and has drawn a lot more attention to it than I think had there not been a fine," Gordon said Friday at Las Vegas. "I don't know if that really justified a fine in my opinion.

"It probably needed to be handled in some way. I just feel like I wouldn't be getting asked these questions had they went and just talked to him about it."

Gordon's opinion echoes that of Jeff Burton, who on Thursday called the penalty an "overreaction" by NASCAR. Burton's concern is that drivers will no longer have a voice and be allowed to express their feelings without fear of censorship. And it is his opinion that an open dialogue between drivers and the sanctioning body can lead to positive things for all involved.

"It is important to note that when there is a criticism, if done constructively, then maybe it can be a good thing," he said.

But Burton also acknowledged that it's understandable why NASCAR responded the way it did considering how much of a marketing push has been put into promoting the brand-specific car, which is supposed to create better racing and in turn boost attendance and increase television ratings.

"I do understand there's been a tremendous amount of effort that's gone into building this car and making racing more exciting to do and watch," Burton said. "In my eyes, this is the most work that's ever been done to create a car for the fans.

"I'm sure that has something to do with the decision for the penalty."

No stranger to controversy, defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski feels Hamlin's remarks and NASCAR's subsequent fine is a distraction and said there is "no winner." He even went as far to equate the circumstances to a "soap opera or a train wreck."

"The conversation we need to have right now is what we can do to provide the best on track racing for fans and our stake holders," Keselowski said. "When we are talking about things like that, we are not talking about the real discussions and how we are going to accomplish those other things."

As for how the current situation will be resolved, Gordon sees one inevitable outcome: Hamlin will eventually issue a mea culpa and both he and NASCAR will exchange pleasantries about doing what's right for the sport.

But no matter the resolution, don't expect Gordon to speak out in the same manner as Hamlin and challenge NASCAR's authority anytime soon. It's simply not his style; he believes its best to air you grievances behind closed doors.

Besides, when everything is said and done he knows who ultimately holds the power.

"At the end of the day I know whose sand box I'm playing in," Gordon said. "I like the sandbox. I like to play in it and I want to have the best opportunity to have the most fun in that sandbox. Sometimes while you don't always like it you have to bite your tongue and just go out there and race."

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Rain cancels Cup qualifying, field set by points

Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski given pole position.

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Patrick sore after Phoenix, hit in head by rock

How forceful was the hit Danica Patrick took in Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway when her right-front tire blew and she pounded the Turn 4 wall?

The impact was so jarring it left Patrick with a headache and sore neck afterward, the first time she ever had a stiff neck following a wreck.

Patrick was checked out and cleared by the Phoenix medical staff and will be competing this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt Tools 400.

And as if she didn't have enough aches and pains after her wreck at Phoenix, Patrick took a rock to the head Thursday night when she was visiting a local dirt track.

While the rock hit her hard enough to knock her to the ground, Patrick was able to walk away relatively unscathed.

"I feel like I got a concussion last night when I got hit with a rock at the dirt track," Patrick said Friday at Las Vegas. "It's really sore. It hit me straight in the head and I went to the ground. Good thing I had a hat on or I feel there would have been blood."

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2013 NASCAR Weather Forecast for Las Vegas

The NASCAR Weatherman, Meteorologist Brian Neudorff, looks at this weekend's weather forecast at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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