Let’s be honest, this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series didn’t produce a ton of memorable moments. That isn’t to say the season was a wash-out, but at this moment in time, NASCAR is so competitive that drivers, owners, and crew chiefs can’t afford not to take every moment on the track seriously, and be conservative with their cars and focus on winning races.
There is no time for NASCAR rivalries to boil over. Contact is absolutely minimized on most tracks to preserve the precious aero packages that the cars rely on. The focus is to make sure a driver brings the car home in one piece with a good point’s day.
Then comes The Chase. This is when things change, and they have since The Chase was first developed by NASCAR. The Sprint Cup series version of the play-offs is an intense affair and has been known to make even the coolest of drivers crack under pressure.
Which brings us to the now infamous Chase race at NASCAR’s legendary Martinsville Speedway, and all hell breaks loose, specifically between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. Earlier in The Chase, hard racing between Kenseth and Logano at Kansas ended with race leader Matt Kenseth being spun out by Joey Logano, effectively ending Kenseth’s championship run. And the ordinarily calm, cool, and collected Matt Kenseth was not happy.
“… it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don’t have anything else to say. It’s a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over.”
And Joey Logano had every right to upset. The Chase drivers are in the final elimination round. Now Joey is in a position where he must win one of the next two races for a shot to be part of the NASCAR Championship race in Homestead-Miami. Fortunately for Joey, his performance during The Chase has been phenomenal, and his chances of advancing for a chance to win the biggest prize in NASCAR are fairly high. But it’s not a position any driver wants to be in.
Kenseth, who is out of The Chase, had nothing to lose by taking out Logano. Joey, however, has everything to lose. What a perfect time for Matt Kenseth to show his displeasure – and boy, did he! Veteran NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck sums it up nicely in USA Today.
“The incident was shocking, considering its severity and Kenseth’s mild-mannered, clean-driving reputation. But those are the kind of emotions the Chase has created.”
All of this came at the delight of attendees of the race, who jumped to their feet and screamed wildly over the chaos. The tempers, passion, and resolve that were being shown on the track got NASCAR blood pumping. And no matter how much people condemn either party in this case, what happened was darn good for NASCAR.
Even if NASCAR penalizes Matt Kenseth harshly for his actions, they know this was a huge moment in the history of NASCAR and will be talked about for years to come, with that piece of video played over and over again. It was one of those wild moments that helps the series stay exciting and, like it or not, partly defines NASCAR.
Sure, fans love good clean racing in NASCAR. But, like hockey, what really get fans going are rivalry, revenge, and fights. And it’s what NASCAR will be exploiting, even while it tries to contain on-track retaliation.
And at a time when any TV viewer of the weekly Sprint Cup races can see a lot of empty seats at each NASCAR track they go to, this is the kind of event that could help fill up more of those seats. Assuredly, there is no shortage of NASCAR fans that would have loved to have been at Martinsville on Sunday to experience the moment Matt Kenseth took out Joey Logano.
[Featured image by Ed Zurga / Getty Images]