I’ll be the first to admit it, I was giddy after watching Matt Kenseth dump Joey Logano last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Late race antics overshadowing two great races (Kansas 2 weeks prior). To sum up what transpired, here is a quick rundown:
Matt Kenseth was leading (by a thread) during the closing laps at Kansas Speedway on Sunday Oct. 18th which was round 2 (Contender Round) of the Sprint Cup Chase for the Cup. In order to advance into the Eliminator Round, a competitor needs to win one of three races or finish higher than the other “Chase eligible” contenders. Joey Logano was lurking, ever so closely to Kenseth and was looking to seize the lead. Kenseth had been doing a good job blocking the hard charging Logano until five laps remained. While approaching lapped cars Logano bumped Kenseth out of the way, spinning him out. Essentially ruining his bid to win the race and a chance to win his 2nd Championship. It was abundantly clear that Logano was quicker at this stage of the race and the pass for the lead didn’t look like it was going to be difficult, but I’m not a driver. Who am I to determine when is the right time to take the lead and not.
It was a racing deal, a move that most fans had seen hundreds of times, by some of the best drivers ever to grace the sport. I couldn’t fault Logano for the bump and run, unfortunately for Matt his day was pretty much over.
After the race Logano was unapologetic after he collected the checkered flag. Rather matter of fact about the ordeal.
Kenseth was obviously very disappointed with the finish at Kansas and how it ended for his race team.
A week later NASCAR moved to Talladega, the longest and most unpredictable track on the circuit. Early in the race during green flag pit stops Kenseth was heading to pit road with a slew of cars behind him, he was not leading the race at the time. Logano also committed to the pits a fraction of a second later than Kenseth. In doing so, Logano’s machine cut directly in front of Kenseth, causing the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to slam on his brakes as to try and avoid contact, he didn’t. The damage was minimal but could have been much worse. Kenseth was seething over the radio after the latest incident.
At Martinsville with 66 laps to go Kenseth was wrecked again, this time by Logano’s Penske racing teammate Brad Keselowski in what appeared to be an unavoidable circumstance. Kenseth’s team was able to fix the heavily damaged car and returned to the track, 9 laps down.
With 47 laps remaining, Kenseth intentionally took out the leader, Logano. The fans roared with approval. Logano suffered major damage, ultimately finished 37th and led 207 laps (most of any driver).
There is a major difference in what Logano did to Kenseth at Kansas and what transpired at Martinsville.
Kenseth, out of race contention took out the leader all for the sake of payback. Logano may have wrecked Kenseth first but that was not intentional. It’s called a bump and run and the move is used in every race on almost every lap, it’s what drivers need to do at times to pass one another.
I hear there is a driver code, race me how you would like to be raced. Wreck me and expect payback.
NASCAR needs to protect the integrity of the sport. This is not the WWE where there are agendas and storylines. You can’t script these things.
The law came down late Tuesday afternoon on Kenseth. He’ll sit out the next two races for taking matters into his own hands. I’m sure Logano’s carefree, unrepentant behavior after the Kansas wreck including not reaching out to Kenseth during the week leading up to Talladega played a role in what happened at Martinsville.
This is what NASCAR wanted though, the “boys have at it” behavior has been front and center far too long. Boundaries need to be established. Wrecking a driver, no matter where or when on the track can have serious trickle-down consequences. Selfish actions such as Kenseth’s on Sunday appear to have helped his teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in their attempts to reach the final round at Homestead.
Logano will have to win one of the next two races to qualify for the championship. He is too far back in the standings from a point’s perspective. Heading into Martinsville Logano had won three straight races and was in position to win his fourth. Even with this setback the 22 team still has plenty of momentum, I wouldn’t count him out.
Logano may have toed the line at Kansas as to what is acceptable amongst the drivers in the garage, at Martinsville Kenseth crossed it.