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The Rundown: Kenseth, New Team Already Clicking

Monday, March 11, 2013
It took Matt Kenseth just three races to get his first win with Joe Gibbs Racing. Photo: HHP Images

Transitions can be an x-factor in racing. Sometimes, a new combination between a driver, a new team or crew chief can cause some growing pains. But in other cases, things get up to speed in a hurry. You can count Matt Kenseth in the latter of those two.

After running strong in the first two races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Kenseth found his way to victory lane on Sunday at Las Vegas, leading 42 laps, including the final 40 circuits to take the win.

Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff appear to be well in sync just three races into the season. Combine that with the resources of Joe Gibbs Racing, and you may very well have a powerful contender for the championship this season in the form of the No. 20 car.

As for Sunday’s race, many had pointed to Las Vegas as one of the early tests for the new Generation-6 car. With several tracks similar to Las Vegas remaining on the schedule, and with downforce playing such a key role in these events, Sunday’s race had many eyes on it from both fans and competitors alike.

Overall, an exciting race was produced in the Gen-6 car’s debut on a 1.5-mile track. There were 22 lead changes, the most for a race at LVMS since 2007. Plus, as we saw with gutsy on-track passes by the likes of Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne, these cars are very capable of getting pretty racy on the track.

The best news is that it’s a very young season, and as teams figure out more about these new cars, the racing will be even more fun to watch.

Hornish Sends Message

The early part of any racing season is about momentum. Sam Hornish Jr. has a firm hold on it within the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Hornish sent a strong message Saturday to both series regulars and Sprint Cup drivers racing in NNS events that he’ll be a driver to be reckoned with for both wins and the series championship.

The current points leader, Hornish has two top-five finishes and three top-10s. His finish of seventh at Phoenix came after Hornish battled back from early damage to his car.

While it is early in the season, Hornish is already a major factor to claim another Nationwide Series title for Roger Penske.

The Elevator: Who’s Up and Who’s Down?

Going Up

Jimmie Johnson

With finishes within the top six positions in the first three races of the year, including finishes of first and second to start the season,  it’s safe to say that the 48 team is starting 2013 on the right foot.

Brad Keselowski

The defending champion has all but matched Johnson in every way except for winning a race.

Kasey Kahne

Made up some major ground after a slow start to the season on Sunday.

Going Down

Ryan Newman

After picking up a top-five finish at Daytona, he has failed to finish the past two races and badly needs strong finishes the next few races to climb out of 31st place in the points standings.

Tony Stewart

The three-time series champion has just one top-ten finish through three races. Then again, many ‘Smoke’ fans will tell you that he heats up in the summer months, anyway.

Kevin Harvick

The 29 team started the year strong with wins in support events at Daytona, but has just one top-ten finish to show for its efforts so far and is currently 19th in points. The good news for Harvick fans is that Bristol ranks fifth for the driver in terms of best career average finish.