Engine derails driver's record bid

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LAS VEGAS --- Matt Kenseth 's attempt to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win the season's first three races went up in smoke Sunday at the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Matt Kenseth: Driver was trying to become the first in NASCAR history to win the first three races in a season.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Matt Kenseth: Driver was trying to become the first in NASCAR history to win the first three races in a season.

Kenseth's Ford erupted in a cloud of white smoke on the sixth lap, sending him to a 43rd-place finish.

"Something busted in there," he said. "It's disappointing we didn't get to race today, but those guys do a great job on engines. I think it's the first failure we've had in over two years."

It proved to be a sign of things to come. David Ragan , Carl Edwards and Mark Martin also lost engines, and Kurt Busch 's team had to make repairs to a bad valve. On Friday, Toyota engines driven by Kyle Busch , Scott Speed , Brian Vickers , Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann had to be changed.

"In four years at Roush Fenway (Racing) this is the first time I've had an engine failure," Ragan said. "Things like this happen when you are always trying to get the most out of things, and I'm disappointed it had to happen this early in the race. I wish we could have at least got to race some more."

Kenseth started the season with wins at the Daytona 500 and at California. He started 40th on Sunday and told his team his engine started misfiring on the second lap.

"Winning the third race, seriously, was the farthest thing from my mind than anything," he said. "We approach it one race at a time. I'm very thankful for the first two weeks of the season we had and for the opportunity to drive this car."

Car owner Jack Roush also missed a chance to tie a NASCAR record with three consecutive victories to start the season. Peter DePaolo won three in a row in 1957, and Petty Enterprises did it in 1963.

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL: Las Vegas Motor Speedway made an 11th hour push to sell the remaining tickets for Sunday's race, offering a $50 ticket for general admission in the third- and fourth-turn seats.

There were hundreds of unsold seats during the race, but the track came close to selling all 142,000 tickets.

"I had my doubts a couple of months ago that we'd get so close to a full house, but now it looks realistic," speedway general manager Chris Powell said. "We're aware of some fans who, probably because of the downturn in the economy, have purchased tickets and will not be able to travel to Las Vegas for this weekend's racing activities. That should explain any empty seats that are visible."

PIT STOPS: Kyle Busch 's win for Joe Gibbs Racing kept Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway from extending their stranglehold on the Sprint Cup Series and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hendrick and Roush combined to win 14 of the past 16 races, and they had won 10 of 11 wins at Las Vegas. The highest-finishing car from either of those organizations was Jeff Gordon in sixth.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com


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