NATE RYAN: If a key to hooking the highly coveted Millennial audience is by cultivating its youthful stars, NASCAR took an unwitting step toward the future Tuesday by benching Matt Kenseth.
Strip away all of the nonsense about driver codes and the accompanying code language, and what’s clear is that the current controversy engulfing the Sprint Cup Series breaks down across generational lines.
Besides being this year’s only championship contender born after 1990, the case can be made that no current driver has been assailed, bullied and taunted by rivals as much as Joey Logano … except perhaps teammate Brad Keselowski, the first Millennial champion in Sprint Cup history.
The Team Penske duo has an anti-establishment bent – though its style seems more old school and traditional than those who are demanding contrite expressions of regret for it – and it’s brought condemnation from the ruling class of stock-car racing.
With his punishment of Kenseth – and the lack of penalty for Logano’s spin and win at Kansas – NASCAR chairman Brian France (a latter-stage Baby Boomer, by the way) delivered an implicit message of disapproval to the cadre of Generation X stars who seem to believe it’s their way or the highway.
DUSTIN LONG: NASCAR’s penalty to Matt Kenseth redefines a sport and alters a driver code at the expense of a competitor.
After questions of if officials were truly in control, NASCAR changed the rules less than three weeks before its championship race to ensure there would be no funny business in the finale.
Kenseth had the misfortune of being the guy who crossed the line in NASCAR’s eyes and drew the heavy penalty.
Many will argue NASCAR’s actions were not fair and that Kenseth is being made a scapegoat. They’re right to some degree. But NASCAR had to react. They had allowed drivers too much freedom in settling scores.
There comes a time when if you give someone a chance to make the right decisions and they continually don’t, it’s time to step in.
NASCAR’s laissez faire approach no longer worked. But in reasserting control, the question is if NASCAR went too far.