NASCAR made a statement by levying a harsh two-race suspension to Matt Kenseth, who retaliated and intentionally took out championship favorite Joey Logano last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Drivers and fans had mixed reactions on the punishment, and all eyes will be on Texas Motor Speedway to how it affects races beginning with Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
Most felt the punishment was a bit much and seemed hesitant to say it would be a significant deterrent.
Guys have wrecked each other since racing started
Martin Truex Jr.
“Guys have wrecked each other since racing started,” said Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet.
“That’s not going to change. Guys get mad all the time. I think that people will go about it differently now because of what happened this week, for sure. How far that goes, I’m not real sure. We’ll have to wait and see.”
With NASCAR’s penalty on Kenseth, drivers at least have a better understanding of the consequences should a line be crossed. Kenseth blatantly drove Logano into the wall, something that can’t happen between a car that is out of the Chase and even contention to win the race. [Kenseth] and a car that is firmly in the Chase and was leading at the time of the wreck.
Veteran Jeff Gordon appreciated that the sanctioning body showed it isn’t afraid to hand out severe penalties for reckless behavior on the track.
“We don’t like judgment calls,” Gordon said. “We like things to be clear. And I think we’re all pretty clear now.”
Added Carl Edwards, Kenseth’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing: “It was definitely a shock, the [Kenseth] penalty to me. I think everyone will be on pretty decent behavior because of that. If that’s how it’s going to be, you definitely have to be careful.”
But that doesn’t mean tempers and emotions won’t flare Sunday at Texas. Only Gordon has secured one of the four berths in the championship round, meaning the seven remaining Chase drivers will be gunning hard for the win.
Plus, the Jimmie Johnsons and Dale Earnhardt Juniors of the world would love to notch a late-season victory even though they’re not in the Chase.
And don’t think Gordon won’t be aggressive if the scenario calls for it. If he sees a win, he’ll go for it.
1 Career win at Texas Motor Speedway for Jeff Gordon
“If we have a shot at the win and if I could do it a clean way, I will go for it,” Gordon said.
But Gordon didn’t miss a beat in describing a scenario in which he would go into a more aggressive mode. If it’s between him and Brad Keselowski, all bets are off.
Gordon clearly remembers how Keselowski cut his tire a year ago at Texas, which ultimately knocked Gordon out of the Chase and led to an all-out post-race brawl between the two.
“If it’s the 2 car [of Keselowski], that’s going to be different,” Gordon said. “But to just go do that [aggressive style] to whoever I’m racing in the Chase when I feel like it’s a little more desperate or it’s because they were blocking me and I didn’t like that, I don’t know if that’s worth it.”
Saturday’s scheduled Sprint Cup practices were canceled because NASCAR needed additional time to dry the track for the Xfinity Series race.
The first practice had been originally scheduled from 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m., and the final practice from 1 p.m.-1:50 p.m. The hope had been to get at least some practice time before the Xfinity Series race was scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m.
But that simply didn’t happen, as the track wasn’t ready to go until about 3 p.m. with the green flag dropping for the Xfinity Series race at 3:15 p.m.
The Cup practices will not be made up before Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
‘Free Matt’ T-shirts
Denny Hamlin has been arguably the most vocal driver in his support of teammate Kenseth.
He wasn’t happy about NASCAR’s unprecedented two-race suspension.
Hamlin took his support a step further, encouraging fans to purchase a “Free Matt” T-shirt on his website. All proceeds will benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation, according to Hamlin.
“Might as well do something positive out of a tough situation,” Hamlin wrote on his Twitter account, @dennyhamlin.