On March 8, the Cobalt 400, Round 3 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, was held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The starting line up of the Toyota Camry team were as follows: Matt Kenseth in the third row, sixth position; Carl Edwards in 14th; Denny Hamlin in 19th; and Clint Bowyer in 20th position. Brian Vickers, after having to sit out the first two races while recovering from heart surgery, started from the 28th position. David Ragan used a backup car after suffering a crash during the final practice and started from the rear of the grid.
The 267-lap race on March 8 began at 12:49pm at the 1.5-mile oval track (400.5 miles: roughly 640km). Both Hamlin and Edwards showed promising runs as they entered the top 10. The competition caution was waved on lap 25 and all cars headed to the pits. Hamlin was in a good position to take the lead after having his crew change two of the tires, but he made slight contact with another car as he came out of the pit. Although there was no major damage, it put Hamlin in 6th place at the restart of the race.
Kenseth struggled and dropped back from his spot because his front tires were lacking grip. The four tires were changed at the pit stop. The adjustments made proved to be effective with Kenseth starting in 24th at the restart, gradually climbing his way up. On lap 75, Hamlin and Edwards, who started from 6th and 8th position, were able to climb their way to the 9th and 10th positions respectively.
The green-flag pit stops began around lap 75. Kenseth and Edwards delayed their pit stops and they led a lap on lap 77 and lap 79 respectively. They were awarded a bonus point for leading a lap. Immediately after all cars have completed their pit stops, the second yellow caution flag was waved because of debris on the track. Vickers, who was a lap behind, made his comeback and led a lap by using the lucky dog pass.
The race restarted on lap 87 and no yellow caution flags were raised after more than 50 laps. The green flag pit stop was waved on lap 130. Including the leader, there were 16 racers on the same lap. Hamlin, Edwards, and Kenseth all remained in the top 10.
The third yellow caution flag came out on lap 138. All cars headed to the pits. Kenseth, who restarted the race in 11th place, missed the start because another car was blocking his way, dropping him to 16th position. Kenseth, however, gradually recovered his position. During the yellow caution on lap 172, he immediately climbed to the top 10 because of his crew’s excellent pit work.
After the restart of the race, with only nine laps left, the yellow caution flag was waved again due to a crash. On lap 193, Edwards restarted on 5th position from the inside of the third row. A fierce battle for the 2nd place unfolded, racing side-by-side and clashing against another racer. Edwards lost his balance and spun, crashing against the inside wall. Edwards, who had run in the top 10 all day, was forced to bring his car back to the garage for a long repair, dropping him out of the fight. Despite sustaining some damage due to Edwards spinning and hitting his car, Hamlin continued the race without losing his position.
With no yellow caution flags after the restart on lap 199, Hamlin raced into third. The green flag pit stop began to cycle around lap 230 for the last refueling. Hamlin strategically delayed his pit stop and was able to change his ranking. Despite having handling issues, he was able to maintain his position and finished 5th place. Hamlin finished 4th in the season opener at Daytona and this time in round 2, he managed to finish 5th.
Kenseth finished 9th, his second time this season to finish in the top 10. Hamlin and Kenseth are also on the top 10 of the Driver Standings, at 8th and 10th place respectively. In his first appearance this season, Vickers, who started from the rear, made a comeback and finished 15th.
The 4th Round will be held at the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on March 15.
â– NASCAR Sprint Cup 3rd Round
1st: Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet)
2nd: Martin Truex Jr. (Chevrolet)
3rd: Ryan Newman (Chevrolet)
4th: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevrolet)
5th: Denny Hamlin (Toyota)
6th: AJ Allmendinger (Chevrolet)
â– Driver Standings
1st: Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet) 134 points
2nd: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevrolet) 125 points
3rd: Joey Logano (Ford) 123 points
4th: Martin Truex Jr. (Chevrolet) 118 points
5th: AJ Allmendinger (Chevrolet) 100 points
6th: Kasey Kahne (Chevrolet) 92 points
(Translated by Katherine N. Bantiles)