Monday, March 11, 2013 | 4:03 p.m.
It was a hat-trick victory for NASCAR racecar driver Matt Kenseth on Sunday afternoon as he simultaneously celebrated his 41st birthday. It was his third win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it was a stunning debut with his Joe Gibb Dollar General team.
Matt also became the third NASCAR driver to win on his birthday -- hometown hero Kyle Busch did it once, and Cale Yarborough did it twice. Matt won here in consecutive years -- 2003 and 2004. He won the Daytona 500 in 2009 and 2012. In the 16 years of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, he has driven in 474 races and won 25 times.
After the win celebrated in true-burnout and then champagne-celebration style, Matt held on tightly to his 4-year-old daughter, Kaylin. “I was really nervous all day,” he said. “I thought with just 12 laps to go, we were going to lose. We didn’t have the fastest car, but we had it where we needed it to be.” He narrowly defeated Kasey Kahne, following closely in 2nd.
Defending champion Tony Stewart finished 11th, and Las Vegas resident Kyle Busch placed 4th. Last weekend’s Phoenix winner Carl Edwards was 5th, and Danica Patrick in a new Gen-6 car finished 33rd. Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his eye-popping photo gallery and to videographer Richard Corey for all the inside-track action.
The three-day NASCAR visit to LVMS began with a washout Friday, but the chilly, damp temperatures vanished for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400. We enjoyed glorious sunshine in the high 60s. NASCAR fan Carrot Top, who headlines at the Luxor, attended the open-air Drivers Meeting pre-race, and he and I were on the NASCAR Sirius radio show.
The cast from “Rock of Ages” at The Venetian performed a nearly 9-minute medley of .’80s anthem hits before I took over the mic for the driver introductions. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was onstage, too, and urged fans to plead with NASCAR executives to bring a second race to our LVMS.
LVMS owner Bruton Smith told me that I, too, should get the crowd to cheer for one more race. There are rumors of a sunset race this year, but LVMS President Chris Powell says he wants the one they have to be the most successful of the attractions presented there. Incidentally, he told me that he’s looking forward to this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival.
Flamingo headliner Marie Osmond performed the national anthem flawlessly and won huge cheers from the crowd. It was timed perfectly to her final notes for the USAF Thunderbirds from Nellis Air Force Base on their last flyover until the government’s sequestration problems are resolved.
Many attendees commented to me out at the racetrack in North Las Vegas: “Why does it have to hurt our heroes? Why are they being punished? Why not stop giving away foreign aid to Muslim countries? Why not stop buying new uniforms for TSA at the airports?”
Also out at the Kobalt Tools 400 was Stratosphere’s “Pin Up” starlet Claire Sinclair, who had been rained out of her trophy presentation on Friday. She was dressed in a “Pin Up” tank top and stopped by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and met up with members of the “Rock of Ages” cast.
In other NASCAR activity in town: Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed up at Caesars Palace in his #88 AMP Energy orange-colored car to show fellow AMP Energy athletes MMA fighter Urijah Faber and Olympic snowboarder Scott Lago how to perform burnouts.
Sam Hornish Jr. won the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 on Saturday. NASCAR legend Richard Childress, 2012’s Rookie of the Year Austin Dillon and brother Ty Dillon hosted a meet-and-greet at Optica in The Venetian. They posed for photographs and signed autographs for NASCAR enthusiasts.
Cutest moment of my MC duties? Carolyn told me she still uses the miniature champagne and ice bucket kitchen timer -- the souvenir from my birthday at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in 2011 -- whenever she cooks dinner at home for husband former Mayor Oscar Goodman. “It still works perfectly almost two years from when you gave it to us,” she laughed.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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