It was a curious decision when leader Matt Kenseth lined up on the outside lane for a restart with 61 laps to go in Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
Even winner Denny Hamlin asked on his team radio what his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate was doing because the inside lane is preferred at Martinsville.
Kenseth’s decision put Jeff Gordon on the inside after the four-time champion asked Kenseth for the favor.
“I was just pulling at straws,’’ Gordon said after the race. “I really wanted the inside and said, ‘Hey, ask Kenseth if he’ll let me (on the inside) … this is the least he can do for body-slamming me (earlier). Somehow the message got across. So that was way cool, and it worked out pretty good for us.”
Kenseth led the first two laps after the restart before Gordon moved into first. Kenseth explained his side Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin Paint’’ show.
“Earlier in the race I ran over Jeff really bad by accident,’’ Kenseth said on the show. “He asked, and I trusted him to give (the bottom) to me when we got to Turn 1. Honestly, the launch off the top I thought was better than the bottom. When you get down to the corner, you wanted to be on the bottom.
“I just thought it would make that bottom line a little bit longer and give me a shot to get away a little bit. Those are decisions that happen pretty fast. I’m sure most people thought I was crazy.
“I knew Kevin (Harvick) was really fast on a short run and felt like with him starting (third) he was probably going to get underneath me in the first corner or two, and I was going to have a better shot of getting freight trained doing that than if I started on top and tried to get to the bottom and get some momentum and get away.’’
Kenseth, who finished fourth at Martinsville, was asked by co-host Jim Noble if he was surprised at Gordon’s request and if he would have said no to other drivers.
“If I thought it was going to hurt my effort, I would have said no, no matter who it was, whether it was a teammate, best friend or whoever it was,’’ Kenseth said. “I honestly thought at the time it wasn’t going to hurt my effort, it was probably going to help it by slowing down that inside lane a little bit and, hopefully, getting away and getting a little bit of breathing room because I knew I was bad on a short run.’’