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March 10, 2013

Matt Kenseth holds off Kahne to win in Vegas

Eds: With AP Photos.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Matt Kenseth won on his 41st birthday in just his third start for the Joe Gibbs Racing, barely holding off Kasey Kahne at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday for his 25th career victory.

"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 — and a few screamed instructions at his new spotter — to keep Kahne's impressive Chevrolet behind him to the finish.

He celebrated with uncommon vigor after his JGR Toyota crossed the line. He's still getting comfortable with his new teammates after leaving Roush Fenway Racing in the highest-profile driver move of the offseason, joining Gibbs after 13 seasons with RFR.

"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. Jimmie Johnson, the overall points leader, was sixth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh.

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