NASCAR rejects Matt Kenseth appeal – Indianapolis Star
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Â Â A final appeals officer rejected an appeal by Matt Kenseth on Thursday after he challenged his two-race suspension by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano over the weekend during the race at Martinsville.
Kenseth will miss the next two races, at Texas and Phoenix, and be eligible to return for the Nov. 22 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Final appeals officer Bryan Moss did reduce his probation period from six months until the end of this year. Mossâ decision is binding.
The case was an interesting one for NASCAR, which has not been consistent over the years in punishing drivers who exact revenge. Kenseth was spun out three races ago by Logano as both raced for the win at Kansas, ruining a chance to advance in NASCARâs championship playoffs. On Sunday, he deliberately crashed into Logano at Martinsville and Logano lost a shot at an automatic berth in the final four.
Kenseth was suspended and put on six months of probation. Danica Patrick was fined $50,000 for wrecking another driver in retaliation on Sunday.
Kenseth was harshly punished to deter any driver from doing the same thing, NASCAR chairman Brian France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday. France referenced the 2013 cheating scandal at Richmond, where Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated a series of events to ensure its driver made the playoffs.
France warned the entire industry after the Richmond embarrassment that manipulating races would not be tolerated â and he indicated what Kenseth did at Martinsville fit that category, so the penalty was much stiffer than the one given to Patrick or drivers for other on-track incidents.
âGoing back to Richmond, weâve been very clear when anybody in the industry, any driver or participant, intentionally tries to alter the outcome of events or championships, that crosses a different line than a racing problem between two drivers,â France said. âSo obviously the significance of what was on the line had to be taken into consideration.â
Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000 but avoided suspension for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer in a move that ended Bowyerâs 2012 title chances. Reigning champion Kevin Harvick had no action taken against him two weeks ago at Talladega when he triggered a race-ending crash that preserved his spot in the playoffs.
France said the only difference between what Kenseth and Patrick did on Sunday were the stakes for Logano, the Daytona 500 winner en route to his fourth-straight victory and a berth in the championship finale for the second consecutive year.
Kenseth, the two-time Daytona 500 winner and last series champion before the Chase was introduced in 2004, was uncharacteristically angry for more than two weeks after he was wrecked at Kansas. It was no secret whatsoever he was fuming, but NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske all allowed the feud to simmer rather than intervene before Martinsville.
Kenseth passed on a chance to knock Logano out of his way earlier Sunday, but he finally snapped after he was wrecked while racing Logano and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski for position. The teammates had been working together on restarts, strategy that angered other drivers near the front of the field who believed the Penske drivers were monkeying around.
Kenseth and Keselowski made contact that sent both cars to the garage, and Kenseth didnât buy the in-race explanation from Keselowskiâs camp, which maintained it was an accident.
So Kenseth then returned to the track in a wrecked car, down nine laps, and drove Loganoâs car into the wall as Logano tried to lap him. Instead of winning the race and earning a spot in the championship finale, Logano is now last in the eight-driver field.
France argued that a deliberate wrecking of Loganoâs race, perhaps season, canât be tolerated.
âI know thereâs a lot of discussion about consistency in our penalties and there should be and thatâs part of the equation,â France said. âWe issue penalties for two reasons: Weâve got to punish you for what we think youâve done wrong, and we have to make sure that we deter somebody else from doing exactly what you did or worse. Thatâs why we canât be consistent with every single penalty because sometimes weâve got to up the ante with a penalty because we donât believe the current remedy is a deterrent.â
After he was spun out at Kansas, Kenseth argued that it was a cheap move by Logano, who was already assured of advancing to the next round. Other drivers seemed to believe that the arrogance shown by Logano after the spin â he was shoulder-shrug unapologetic â had shattered a driver code.
France, however, praised Logano for the shrewdness he showed in chasing a win that blocked one of his top competitors for the title, and the aggression Logano showed to move Kenseth after Kenseth blocked him several times.
âTo not have to deal with Matt Kenseth, thatâs smart,â France said. âYou can drive aggressively and if thereâs a little bit of contact, then we understand that. Thereâs nothing new that went on at Kansas that doesnât go on all the time. Now it was very unfortunate with the circumstances Matt got dealt on that particular day because he needed to win, he was trying move on in the round, we understand that. What happened, frankly, as I said before, was quintessential NASCAR.â
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