HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Team owner Joe Gibbs confirmed he also met with Brian France after the NASCAR chairman had an audience Monday with Matt Kenseth.
A NASCAR spokesman said France met with Kenseth at the NASCAR Plaza in Uptown Charlotte. France then traveled north to Huntersville, N.C., to meet with Gibbs at the team’s headquarters.
“I think, going forward, we had good meetings,” Gibbs said Thursday after the Ford 400 championship contenders news conference. “I think we’re all in a good place right now. I think Matt is, too, and I appreciated getting a chance to meet with Brian, and I think Matt did, too, and I think we’re going to put all that behind us, and we’re going to go racing.”
Kenseth was suspended for two races after intentionally wrecking Joey Logano last month at Martinsville Speedway. France summoned him for Monday’s meeting three days after Kenseth expressed no remorse about the incident and said his actions had been encouraged by the NASCAR chairman.
Asked whether Kenseth, who was spun from the lead by Logano two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway, was justified, Gibbs said, “I don’t tell drivers about their relationship with other drivers and kind of what happens on the racetrack. I’ll leave that up to them. But I think in this case, you know, I kind of stated what I felt before, and I’m going to leave that there.”
If, in a tiff with NASCAR or another driver, Gibbs was asked: “Do you back a driver regardless because he’s your driver, of what he’s done? Do you go to bat for him?”
“That’s kind of a hard answer probably,” he said. “I think there’s certain things that have happened in the past where you would say, ‘Hey, this is definitely wrong.’ I know I have with drivers, and said, ‘Look, this is not something we’re all about, ‘ and we have all those kinds of discussions. You go through some tough things.
“And then there’s other times that you kind of feel like, ‘Hey, it’s our responsibility, we’re a team, and we’re going to stand up for each other.’ So I think it could go either way.”
Gibbs said he also talked with Roger Penske, Logano’s team owner, after the races at Kansas and Martinsville.
“I think just between me and Roger, we’ve always had a good relationship,” Gibbs said. “He called me after Kansas. I called him after Martinsville, and that’s about it. That’s all I’d say about it. I think we really get along with each other, and the things we kind of talk about are kind of between us.”
Kenseth will return Friday to his No. 20 Toyota for practice and qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Gibbs said the team was anxious to welcome back the 2003 champion.
“It’s almost like you’re missing part of the family when one of our drivers is not there,” Gibbs said. “It was the same with Kyle (Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season with injuries). We certainly missed him, and you miss Matt. So having him back, yeah, we’ve talked about that, and he just kind of shared some things with me, and then I shared some things with him.
“It’s the kind of things between the two of us, but I think he felt like the meeting (with France) was very beneficial, and I know I felt the same way.”