Unrepentant Matt Kenseth vows aggression; points finger at Joey Logano and Brian France

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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

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings