NASCAR suspended driver Matt Kenseth for two races and placed him on six months’ probation for his role in an incident Sunday involving Joey Logano during the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The punishment, which was announced Tuesday evening, came after Kenseth wrecked Logano with 47 laps remaining in the race. Kenseth, who was nine laps down at the time, was black-flagged from the race, while Logano returned and finished 37th.
Kenseth’s move appeared to be in retaliation against Logano, who bumped aside Kenseth in the final laps at Kansas and went on to his second consecutive win in the Chase, but also likely costing Kenseth a spot in the third round of the playoffs.
“Based upon our extensive review, we have concluded that the No. 20 car driver (Kenseth), who is no longer in the Chase, intentionally wrecked the No. 22 car driver (Logano), a Chase-eligible competitor who was leading the race at the time,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in a statement. “The No. 20 car was nine laps down, and eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race.
“Additionally, we factored aspects of safety into our decision, and also the fact that the new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR.”
In a statement, Kenseth’s team, Joe Gibbs Racing, said it will appeal the penalty.
“The appeal will challenge the severity of the penalty, which is believed to be inconsistent with previous penalties for similar on-track incidents,” the statement read.
Logano called Kenseth a coward after the Martinsville race. Kenseth, while not directly admitting that he wrecked Logano, took responsibility for the crash.
Logano, who was leading at the time, heads into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the eighth and final spot in the Chase standings. He needs to win either at Texas or Phoenix next week or move into the top four to be eligible to race for the title Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
NASCAR also fined Danica Patrick $50,000, docked her 25 points and placed her on probation until Dec. 31 for trying to wreck David Gilliland during the Martinsville race.
Speaking earlier Tuesday, NASCAR Chairman Brian France was critical of Kenseth.
“We don’t want that to happen again,” France said in an interview on Sirius/XM Radio. “We don’t want any of our events to be altered in a way they shouldn’t be. What we want to prevent happening is drivers or any participant in NASCAR to take matters into their own hands and begin to control the outcome of races beyond hard racing. When that happens, that’s a very serious thing for us.”
France drew a distinction between what happened at Martinsville from Kansas, where Kenseth and Logano were both racing for the lead.
“That was an entirely different situation,” he said. “What we’re not going to do is take the style of NASCAR and parlay that into something where one driver believes the way to pay back somebody for something that happened is take matters into their own hands. Obviously, we won’t be accepting that.
“The way to pay drivers back is to race them hard. That’s NASCAR. But what happened on Sunday is not quite the way we’d like things to turn out.”