LAS VEGAS -- Matt Kenseth decided not to replace any tires during the final pit stop under caution, and the calculated risk put him in the lead.
Kenseth knows a bit about risk after his offseason move to Joe Gibbs Racing, and this latest gamble paid off with his third victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kenseth won on his 41st birthday in just his third start for his new team, holding off Kasey Kahne for his 25th Sprint Cup victory Sunday.
"I was real nervous all day," Kenseth said. "(Kahne) had the best car. I told (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) with about 12 to go that I was sorry we were going to lose. We were just too tight. ... We didn't have the fastest car there, but we had it where we needed it to be."
Kenseth took charge by taking only fuel on the final pit stop during caution while almost everybody else replaced two tires. He took the lead and held onto it, using his veteran savvy to keep Kahne's Chevrolet behind him to the finish.
The laid-back Kenseth celebrated with uncommon vigor after his JGR Toyota crossed the line at the 1.5-mile oval. He's still getting comfortable with his new teammates after leaving Roush Fenway Racing in the highest-profile driver move of
"I'm not a huge goal person, but my goal was to win, and to win early," Kenseth said. "Nobody has put any pressure on me except for myself, but I also know that Coach hired me to come in there, climb in that car and win races. You certainly want to do that, and you don't want to disappoint people. I'm glad we got a win, but it's still only Week 3. I feel like this is the beginning."
Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski finished third, with Kenseth's teammate, Kyle Busch, in fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson, the overall points leader, was sixth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh.
Defending race champion Tony Stewart finished 11th, while Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin was 15th after an eventful week featuring a $25,000 fine from NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 race car.
Kenseth is just the third NASCAR driver to win on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough -- who did it twice -- and Busch.
Danica Patrick, the pole winner two weeks ago at Daytona, struggled with her car from the start, going two laps down by the 60th lap and later getting penalized for a tire violation. She finished 33rd.