We’re less than 24 hours removed from the race at Martinsville and there is once again a commotion in the media and in fan circles. Is it about Jeff Gordon punching his ticket to the chase playoffs in dramatic fashion? Nope. Is it about the risk versus reward of tires versus track position? Nope.
All the social media and news outlets are abuzz about the Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano incident. The vast majority of which are already calling for penalties and suspensions to be levied against the driver of the No. 20 car.
Give me a break.
These are the same reporters that jump at a single quote taken out of context just to get views on their stories. The same people that cite “anonymous sources” from conversations with drivers to get “breaking news.” The same outlets that run drama-filled stories about minuscule things that have nothing to do with the competition of the sport they cover.
You know what happened on Sunday? Competition and self-policing happened. You don’t believe me? Re-watch any of the videos from the race and watch the crowd reaction. What we saw was two men racing as hard as they could at Kansas, with one of them feeling wronged about the outcome. End result? That wronged man put things right again. The fans loved it.
Why? Because this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t about a single spin at Kansas a few weeks ago. No, this was frustration and escalation of aggression on the race track that’s been spearheaded and created by none other than the Penske driver himself. Don’t believe me? Let me refresh your memory.
It was the end of the Auto Club 400 in 2013 and the now famous incident between Tony Stewart and Logano on pit road. Stewart was upset by being blocked and run down onto the apron, effectively ruining his race and costing him a good finish. Result? Stewart has a physical confrontation with Logano on pit road. Why? Because Stewart hates being blocked. That’s not his code of racing ethics and how he wants to be raced. Logano, on the other hand, said, “It was the end of the race, and I felt like it’s what I had to do.”
In Logano’s eyes, he felt that he had to block. It was his job to secure his position. However, it’s not simply limited to one incident there. As of now, the Penske driver has had no less than 5 well-documented incidents on track with different drivers in the last few years.
Starting all the way back in 2010 at Michigan, Logano had an on-track incident with Ryan Newman. Racing for 15th place on the track, Logano gets loose under the No. 39 car of Newman and slides up the track, wrecking both drivers. After the race, there was a very animated and heated discussion about the incident.
At the spring race in Bristol, 2013, Logano and Denny Hamlin get into an incident after the 22 of Logano makes a slide-job pass and block on the No. 11 car of Hamlin. Hamlin gives the 22 a bump and spins him off the corner. After the race, Logano goes over to the No. 11 car and proceeds to get into a shoving match with the 11 crew while expressing his displeasure at the still buckled in Hamlin.
The next week at Auto Club Speedway, while racing for the win late, the 22 and the 11 make contact down the backstretch before entering Turn 3. Logano over-drives Turn 3, sliding up into the side of the 11 car of Hamlin, wrecking both drivers. This wreck resulted in Hamlin being injured after hard contact with the inside retaining wall. After the race, Logano infamously said of the accident, “That’s what he gets.” See 5:52 in the video.
Even as recently as this year, Logano has found the ire of other drivers as well after an incident that I covered previously in this article here: (http://www.speedwaymedia.com/?p=91811). Questions were raised throughout the garage about the style of racing that’s being utilized on track by certain drivers.
Flash forward to Kansas a few weeks ago and the roles are reversed. This time, Kenseth is doing exactly what Logano did years ago. He’s racing Logano the same way that he races everyone else on the track. That’s driver code, that’s how it’s always been; “I’ll race you the way you race me.” Logano spun Kenseth and went on to win, effectively ending Kenseth’s chances at a championship.
Even last weekend, Logano, under green flag pit stops, threw a block on Kenseth which aggravated the Champion driver on the radio.
So what happens this weekend? Kenseth raced Logano with the precedent that he himself had set years earlier. Simple as that.
Even race winner Jeff Gordon had something to say about this whole entire series of events, “Had Joey handled that situation at Kansas slightly better … I mean, he was gloating about it. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s exactly the way I should’ve raced and he blocked me.’ That’s fine if you feel that way, but guess what? That’s not helping the situation and how (Kenseth’s) going to think about you and not even think twice if he gets in that scenario and in that situation. That’s what I learned in my situation with Bowyer. Yeah, I had regrets. I wish I’d handled it differently, but I also know my raw emotions came out and I reacted. But it’s how you handle it from that point moving forward as to what is going to help you get through it. That goes from both sides; from Joey’s side as well as from Matt’s side.”
So, does that warrant a suspension and being parked until the end of the year? That’s not up for me to decide, but it’d be rather inconsistent if NASCAR did. I could give you a list five pages long of incidents where a driver wrecked another driver because he or she felt they had been raced outside of their code. It’s something we’ve seen for 60 years now. Drivers race each other the way they wish to be raced. For all the saber-rattling and media outlet crying foul and demanding action and penalties, they seem to have forgotten who started all this in the first place back in 2010.
What short memories everyone seems to have. Everyone except Matt Kenseth.