AVONDALE, Ariz. — In his first extensive interview since being suspended for two races, Matt Kenseth said he has no regrets about intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver told Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press that he would be “less tolerant” and “a lot more aggressive” in the future.
“I feel like sometimes I try too hard, and I need to just let it be, there are some people who are just not going to like me,” he said.
Kenseth came across as unrepentant in the interview and justified in taking action that was condemned by NASCAR, which issued its first multirace suspension in Sprint Cup history to a driver for on-track actions.
“You have to have respect in the garage area. If you are going to go out and try to race for wins and race for championships, you can’t be a doormat or next year you are going to get knocked out again,” the 2003 champion said. “Drivers are going to be like, ‘Well, he ain’t going to do nothing. We’ll just knock him out of the race and then jack with him as much as possible and make sure he’s not going to make it through because he’s not going to retaliate.’
“At some point, in my opinion, you have to retaliate.”
Kenseth, whose No. 20 Toyota is being driven for the second consecutive week by Erik Jones this weekend at Phoenix International Raceweay, again placed blame on Logano for not addressing their relationship properly. The tiff started when Logano won at Kansas Speedway last month after spinning Kenseth from the lead with five laps remaining.
In a 30-minute phone interview Friday, Kenseth told Fryer that Logano had acted arrogantly in his comments afterward, which made Kenseth angrier.
Kenseth also was involved in a Martinsville Speedway crash with Brad Keselowski, Logano’s Team Penske teammate. Kenseth believes Keselowski intentionally wrecked him and cited the lack of contact from Keselowski as proof.
“There’s a right and wrong way to do things, and most grown-ups would have tried to handle it better,” Kenseth said. “There’s just dozens of things that could have stopped it, and Joey never tried to reconcile it. I think everyone in the garage knew it was coming, and you would think (Logano) would be a little bit nervous and address it.”
Kenseth also levied blame at NASCAR for not settling the feud by brokering a meeting between the drivers, and he said chairman Brian France forced his hand by deeming Logano’s Kansas move as “quintessential NASCAR” during an interview with Sirius Satellite Radio.
“I felt like I was almost encouraged. I felt like the comments almost condoned it, the way Brian France said Joey was smart in the way he strategically eliminated a threat for the title,” Kenseth said. “I just never dreamed, ever, that I’d get suspended for going back and evening the score.”
After qualifying Friday at Phoenix, Keselowski was asked if he deliberately crashed Kenseth.
“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” Keselowski replied.
Asked if he believed it was his responsibility to contact Kenseth to clarify it wasn’t intentional, the 2012 champion responded, “I’m not an expert on that stuff. I don’t think it matters what you do. If somebody wants to be mad at you, somebody is going to be mad at you. They don’t need facts.”
Dustin Long contributed to this report