Matt Kenseth loses final appeal, will miss next two races

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Matt Kenseth lost his final appeal Thursday evening and will miss the next two Sprint Cup races.

Kenseth will miss this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and next weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. He’ll be able to return for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I feel like I was unfairly made the example instead of knowing where the line is and what the penalties are,” Kenseth said. “I’m extremely disappointed, but we’ll get through this and go to Homestead.”

Erik Jones will drive in place of Kenseth this weekend at Texas.

“Obviously I’m going to do the best I can for them and just to keep them in contention and hopefully have a good race for them,” Jones said of the prospect of driving Kenseth’s car this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kenseth’s case was heard Tuesday afternoon by Bryan Moss, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer. Moss’ decision is final.

Moss reduced Kenseth’s probation from six months to through Dec. 31, 2015. Moss did not state why he upheld the suspension but reduced the probation in a statement.

Moss stated: “Upon hearing this afternoon’s testimony, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer made the following decisions:

“The Appellant (Kenseth) violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice. The Penalty is amended to: ‘Suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Events. Place on NASCAR probation through December 31, 2015.”

Moss could have altered Kenseth’s Behavior Penalty in any way  – increasing it, decreasing it, or keeping it the same.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld NASCAR’s penalty to Kenseth earlier in the day, setting up this final appeal. Serving on the Panel were Ken Clapp, a former motorsports executive, promoter and currently a motorsports consultant; Bill Mullis, a former driver and current owner of Langley Speedway; and Dale Pinilis, promoter at Bowman Gray Stadium. They were scheduled to hear an appeal involving Brandon Jones in the Camping World Truck Series but moved to the Kenseth case when it was expedited.  Jones’ appeal was rescheduled.

The burden of proof switched to Kenseth in his hearing before Moss. It was up to Kenseth to show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that (1) a violation did not occur, (2) the penalty assessed is not within the score of the Guidelines, and/or (3) that he or she was denied appellate rights as specified,” according to the Sprint Cup Rule Book.

This was Moss’ third hearing involving a Sprint Cup driver or team this season. He upheld NASCAR’s decision and the Appeal Panel’s decision to suspend Kurt Busch in February after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against his ex-girlfriend last year (the Delaware Attorney General declined to file charges). Moss upheld the amended penalties from the Appeals Panel to Ryan Newman‘s team for manipulating tires.

Issues for Kenseth started last month at Kansas Speedway when he was hit by Logano while they raced for the lead. Logano said he had been blocked repeatedly and held his ground. Kenseth spun, losing his chance to win the race. NASCAR Chairman Brian France called the contact “quintessential NASCAR.”

Kenseth got his revenge at Martinsville. His car was damaged in an incident with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski. Kenseth was 10 laps behind the leaders when he ran into the back of Logano’s car while Logano led with 45 laps left. The contact sent both cars into the wall. NASCAR parked Kenseth for the race. Two days later, NASCAR announced that it would suspend Kenseth for two days, stating that Kenseth “eliminated” Logano’s chance to “continue to compete in the race.”