NASCAR has sent a strong message to Matt Kenseth and other drivers considering taking out a Chase contending race leader before this racing season is out: Do not do it.
As the result of Matt Kenseth’s act of revenge over the weekend at the Sprint Cup Race in Martinsville, which saw the former champion run rival Joey Logano into the wall, NASCAR issued a stiff penalty, announced on Tuesday. Joe Gibb’s Racing (Matt Kenseth’s team and car owner) said that they would appeal NASCAR’s penalties. However, after going through the appeal process, they failed to have the decision overturned and he remains on suspension for the next two Sprint Cup series races.
The suspension is considered a “Behavioral Penalty” in the NASCAR rule books. Apparently, it is considered a behavioral problem when you slam another competitor into the outside wall at Martinsville. Who knew?
“Based upon our extensive review, we have concluded that the No. 20 car driver [Matt Kenseth], who is no longer in the Chase, intentionally wrecked the No. 22 car driver [Joey Logano], a Chase-eligible competitor who was leading the race at the time. The No. 20 car was nine laps down, and eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race. Additionally, we factored aspects of safety into our decision, and also the fact that the new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR.”
Although he lost in the appeals process in relation to his two-race suspension, Matt Kenseth had his probation period dropped from six months to two months. Kenseth expressed his frustration and a bit of defiance over NASCAR’s treatment of him to ESPN.
“I’m obviously more than a little disappointed on the decision and the penalties to start with. I’m the first driver in the 65-year history of NASCAR to get suspended for an [on-track] incident that happened in a Sprint Cup Series race. I felt I was unfairly made the example instead of knowing where the line is and what the penalties are….I’m not going to change who I am. I am not going to change what I stand for. I’m not going to change how I race.”
The number of fans unhappy with the punishment NASCAR dished out has been overwhelming (and on social media, often laced with colorful language), and it can be broken down into a few reasons: First off, there is more than a few Joey Logano haters (the term “punk” has been tossed around by many of his critics) who feel that he roughed up Matt Kenseth, taking him out of the Chase in Kansas, and this was deserved payback. In fact, finding many NASCAR fans that are supporting Logano in this situation is like looking for a needle in a stack of discarded racing tires.
My prayers and best wishes go out to @mattkenseth. The decision on NASCAR’s part was very wrong and I hope maybe they will see the light.
— Katrina Carpenter (@KKandCE4ever) November 6, 2015
Second off, there is a feeling that NASCAR has been inconsistent in how it has handled penalties, with this one being abnormally harsh given the actions of other competitors who have received far lighter punishment, including Joey Logano who many feel should have been punished for his actions in Kansas when he took out Matt Kenseth.
All of this Chase race excitement has been going on just before NASCAR Sprint Cup competition moves to Texas Motor Speedway, where last year, sparks (and fists) flew between veteran-driver Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano’s team mate Brad Keselowski.
Unfortunately for Matt Kenseth and his fans, he won’t be taking part in the race, as his suspension begins this weekend. And, after being taken out of the Martinsville Chase race, Joey Logano will have to perform well, or better yet, win this weekend in Texas if he wants to make it through this final elimination round for a chance to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series championship in Homestead-Miami, Florida.
[Feature Image by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images]