An unrepentant Matt Kenseth defended intentionally crashing Joey Logano and alleged NASCAR CEO Brian France deserved some blame for inciting the situation in an extended interview with The Associated Press Friday.
Kenseth became the first premier division driver to be suspended multiple races due to on-track behavior for deliberately taking out Logano during the Nov. 1 race at Martinsville Speedway. At the time Kenseth was 10 laps down, while Logano was leading and in position to earn automatic advancement to the championship round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.
Despite the suspension, Kenseth vowed to be “a lot more aggressive” going forward.
“You have to have respect in the garage area. If you are going to go out and try to race for wins and race for championships, you can’t be a doormat or next year you are going to get knocked out again,” Kenseth said. “Drivers are going to be like, ‘Well, he ain’t going to do nothing. We’ll just knock him out of the race and then jack with him as much as possible and make sure he’s not going to make it through because he’s not going to retaliate.’
“At some point, in my opinion, you have to retaliate.”
The feud between Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, and Logano began when Logano spun Kenseth out of the lead with five laps remaining at Kansas Speedway. In part because he failed to win, Kenseth was dropped from the Chase in the Round 2 elimination race the following week at Talladega Superspeedway.
Never denying he spun Kenseth, Logano contends he was left with little choice because Kenseth repeatedly blocked him — including one instance where he pushed Logano into the outside wall.
Kenseth told the AP it wasn’t just how Logano raced him at Kansas, but how the Team Penske driver conducted himself afterward and could have rectified the situation before Martinsville.
“There’s a right and wrong way to do things, and most grown-ups would have tried to handle it better,” Kenseth said. “There’s just dozens of things that could have stopped it, and Joey never tried to reconcile it. I think everyone in the garage knew it was coming, and you would think (Logano) would be a little bit nervous and address it.”
How Kansas unfolded drew admiration from France, who called Logano’s maneuver “quintessential NASCAR” in an interview the following day on SiriusXM Radio. That remark further irked Kenseth, who felt the sport’s top executive was promoting that kind of driving.
While understanding he would be penalized, Kenseth never imagined being sat for two races. He thought the sanctions would be comparable to what Jeff Gordon incurred when he intentionally crashed Clint Bowyer in the penultimate race of the 2012 season.
Like Logano, Bowyer was a championship contender and effectively eliminated from title contention. NASCAR fined Gordon $100,000 and docked him 25 points, but did not issue a suspension.
Kenseth views his behavior at Martinsville to be “parallel” to Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer at Phoenix in 2012. Gordon was fined $100,000 but avoided suspension, even though the payback ended Bowyer’s title hopes.
“I felt like I was almost encouraged. I felt like the comments almost condoned it, the way Brian France said Joey was smart in the way he strategically eliminated a threat for the title,” Kenseth said. “I just never dreamed, ever, that I’d get suspended for going back and evening the score.”