NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Tuesday morning that Matt Kenseth could face a suspension and that Kenseth’s incident at Kansas with Joey Logano was much different from what happened between the two drivers last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Kenseth, running 10 laps behind after an earlier incident with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, wrecked Logano while Logano led with 45 laps left at Martinsville. The contact cost Logano a chance to win and advance to the championship round later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The contact came two weeks after Kenseth spun while battling Logano for the lead in the final laps at Kansas. Kenseth blocked and Logano’s car made contact. France called that “quintessential NASCAR” on SiriusXM NASCAR at the time.
France made it clear Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” that the contact between Kenseth and Logano at Kansas and Martinsville were not similar.
“The reality is that in Kansas, what I said on this show was that late in a race we expect drivers to take chances to win races, they’ve got the skill to do it,” France said. “We expect them to race hard. Blocking is part of this game, as Matt was doing, and contact will happen in NASCAR from time to time.
“That’s really all that was, but the unfortunate thing for Matt is that he had a lot of on the line that day and it’s understandable the disappointment he had. Late in that race, a faster car is behind you and you’re blocking, there’s some contact and you get the short end of it and you go around. That was an entirely different situation than Martinsville.
“What we’re not going to do is to take the style of NASCAR and parlay that into something where one driver or another believes the way to pay back somebody for something that happened is to take matters into their own hands. Obviously, we won’t be accepting that. The most important thing is the way to pay drivers back is to race them hard. When someone races you hard, you race them hard. If they’re going to give you no inches late in the race, then that’s how you’re going to race them. That’s NASCAR. What happened on Sunday, that’s not quite the way we would have liked to have seen that turn out.”
France was asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio if officials would look at other similar situations.
“We’ll take into consideration other incidents that have occurred, and we’ll look at that and what kind of punishment we administered,” he said. “Understand that all situations are different and that’s also hard to follow sometimes and when you don’t have all the facts and you want to say that thing between so-and-so at that track that was the same exact thing, and they seldom are. They’re never the same.
“But there’s similarities, and we’ll take some of the history that we have ruled on in the past because we want to be as consistent as we can, but, remember, this format is much different than it’s ever been and there is more on the line. We knew when this format was developed that it would present some unique situations for drivers to take more chances … and it would make the job of officiating the events more difficult for us, but we understood that. At the end of the day there’s a real clear set of requirements to be a NASCAR driver and a set of rules.”
In recent incidents, Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer at Phoenix during the Chase in 2012. Kyle Busch was parked for the Xfinity and Cup races after wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. during a Truck race at Texas in 2011. Carl Edwards was parked and placed on a three-race probation after wrecking Keselowski at Atlanta in 2010.
Asked if a suspension remained a possibility for Kenseth, France said: “They’re all on the table. We’re going to take everything into consideration that occurred because we won’t want that to happen again. We don’t want any of our events to be altered in a way that they shouldn’t be. That doesn’t mean that they don’t get altered because of hard racing. That’s always going to be a part of the game of NASCAR. There is going to be contact, there is going to be somebody who had a lot on the line and in Matt’s case in Kansas where you just simply get the absolute short end of the straw. We hope that never happens, but that is going to happen.
“But what we want to prevent happening is drivers or any participants in NASCAR to take matters into their own hands and begin to control the outcomes of races. When that happens, that’s a very serious thing for us and we’ll be dealing with that.”
France noted that it does not matter that Kenseth is a former champion to NASCAR as it decides what type of punishment to issue.
“He’s driving the car, he makes those decisions,” France said. “It doesn’t matter somebody’s background. It matters what they did that day.
“We will make sure that what is the acceptable style of racing is always a part of NASCAR and what is not will not. We have lots of ways to make sure. We certainly can make sure that the rules are going to reflect somebody who gets well outside of those rules for whatever the reason, whatever the motivation is, payback, whatever it may be. We will deal with that as we always have, very clearly and very carefully and we’ll get it right and that’s our job to do that.”