Something that may or may not come into play today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway is the ending to last week’s race. Driver Matt Kenseth is still adamant that Joey Logano spun him out intentionally when he was in the lead, and being quite vocal about that fact to anyone who will listen.
Talladega is one of the few restrictor plate races on the calendar — a speedway that is so fast in a Sprint Cup car that NASCAR uses restrictor plates to tame the cars’ top speeds a bit. The problem for anyone who leaves other competitors feeling raw is that restrictor plates force the cars to race closer together than usual. Drivers often team up with each other to draft for better top speeds, so you probably want to make sure you still have a few friends in other cars who can help tow you along when you need it.
Conversely, you may get roughed up quite a bit on a regular day in NASCAR after pulling a stunt someone else sees as unfair. From the sound of Kenseth’s remarks to the Associated Press this week, I don’t think he’s going to take it easy around Joey Logano from here on out, much less at the weird and wild race at Talladega.
Kenseth didn’t quite buy Logano’s excuse after last week’s race at Kansas Speedway that Kenseth’s spin-out was just hard racing. Logano had already ensured that he would move on to the next round of the playoff-style Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win at the prior race. Kenseth had broken down at that race and needed to win last week to make up for his deficit in points and have a decent chance at advancing on to the next round. Now Kenseth’s stuck at the bottom of the Chase standings in a position where he most likely must win at Talladega to advance, or be left out of the next round of the Chase.
Simply put, Matt Kenseth ain’t happy about that. Talladega is often criticized for being unpredictable, in part because plate tracks often have huge wrecks due to the close nature of the racing. Want to win there? Hope you’re lucky.
A normally laid-back Kenseth told the Associated Press on Wednesday:
He just plain wrecked me. He cries on his radio a lot, I guess, about blocking or moving around, but man, you’re leading the race and you can pick whatever lane you want. It’s not like he was alongside me. To wreck somebody for being in a lane that you wanted to be in seems kind of risky and not very smart. That was a decision he made.
Kenseth was more direct with his assertions on Friday, when he told the Associated Press:
Someday he might mature a little bit. He should have stopped running his mouth ... and, he’s lying when he said he didn’t do it on purpose because he lifted (my) tires off the ground. He’s too good a race car driver to do that by accident.
Logano’s statements that he was just giving Kenseth a taste of his own hard racing fell on deaf ears. Kenseth (of course) maintains that he wasn’t the slightest bit in the wrong, and that Logano’s retaliatory move that knocked Kenseth out of the lead came out of nowhere.
Kenseth continued on Friday to the AP:
I wouldn’t have done anything differently because I didn’t do anything wrong. I did everything I was supposed to do. I tried to get away. He drove the car in the wall himself twice. I don’t know how you can possibly either block someone or put somebody in the wall when they’re not up alongside you — it’s pretty talented if you can do that when somebody’s four feet behind you.
So, no, I did everything I could to win the race. That’s the way I’d race to win any race — race as hard as you can and do whatever you can, be clean about it and go as fast as I could go and that’s all I was doing. I got hit from behind. I couldn’t do anything about that.
[Insert favorite iteration of the “HE MAD” meme here]
Unsurprisingly, the Associated Press mentions that NASCAR chairman Brian France has praised Logano’s move as “quintessential,” as France has been hoping to see more aggressive racing in the series.
When asked about that, Kenseth fired back in a sarcastic manner, indicating that he doubted both France’s understanding of that word as well as France’s sanity. As quoted by the AP:
I wasn’t very good in high school. I barely made it through Cambridge High School, so I’d have to Google that word first to find out. Once I learn what that means, then I can probably answer that better.
Competitors are split on the issue: some side with Kenseth in condemning the spin-out, and others with Logano. I suspect that Logano won’t be entirely without help in his quest to make the rest of the Chase field work as hard as possible to advance to the next round, however, his move at the end of last week’s race certainly earned him some enemies.
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