(Photo: Mike Neff)

Did You Notice? … NASCAR Is Disciplining Itself Out Of Business?

Did You Notice? … Every controversy we’ve seen in NASCAR this year has revolved around… rules? We changed the rules package for 2015 even though there was great racing the year before. Restart rules have been continually criticized, tweaked and remain a major sore spot. Green-white-checkered rules were modified, then mishandled in the wake of scary accidents at Daytona and Talladega. Even breaking the simple rule of running late for pre-race inspection leads to a penalty, a public flogging in the form of a NASCAR weekly discipline report and losing your first choice of pit stall.

Which leads us to the week’s biggest “rule breaker,” Matt Kenseth and Tuesday’s climax after Martinsville’s demolition of rival Joey Logano. It’s a two-race suspension, unprecedented in the sport’s modern era that brings to mind a two-letter word: B.S.

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The punishment’s ironic considering Kenseth was responding to a “rule” broken inside his own world of stock car racing peers. This one isn’t written out on paper but explained brilliantly by Ricky Craven Tuesday, an impassioned speech reminding everyone of the “driver’s code.” It’s a code Kenseth strongly felt was broken when Logano, already “locked in” to the next round of the Chase chose to spin his rival out rather than pass him cleanly on the racetrack in Kansas. Logano, sitting there with nothing to lose got away “scot free,” the second notch on a round 2 sweep that entrenched his place as a budding superstar. Kenseth, by comparison lost his chance to advance and perhaps his last, best shot at the Sprint Cup championship at age 43.

Logano effectively knocked Kenseth out, putting him on the floor of the ring to the point the veteran felt he had to jump up and respond. Just listen to his post-race quote on Sunday: “I had to maintain respect within the garage area.” There is no 12.1 in the rulebook of driver’s code; it’s a self-policing system designed to keep each driver in check. Keep in mind Kenseth had to sit there, steaming and watch the last few weeks while Logano made no attempt to communicate, no apology uttered even to a member of the press. Logano never reached out over the incident; he just got to smile and battle for the championship Kenseth no longer had a chance to win. When someone steals something from you, especially in athletic competition like that why would you never attempt to take it back?

“We all worked really hard to get to this point, we worked all year and guys take you out,” said Denny Hamlin Sunday. “Matt lost his opportunity to race for a championship and what do you do? You have to answer the bell when that happens.”

“I’m not going to argue with what Matt did,” added longtime friend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “Matt felt like he was justified after Joey wrecked him at Kansas and then was arrogant about it afterwards. I think that was really what got under Matt’s skin more than anything, that Joey was arrogant — damn, when you wreck a guy, admit it!”

That’s not to say Kenseth’s move at Martinsville was a bit overdone, a video game level of destruction that did bring up potential safety concerns. For all the fans cheering in the stands NASCAR had to do something. A fine and probation was perfectly reasonable; taking away points, while somewhat meaningless under the new Chase format (Kenseth can do no better than fifth) would also have been within the realm of fairness. That’s consistent within the rulebook they’ve created without trying to play dictator over an internal code in the garage area they’ve never interfered with.

But a two-race suspension? Where’s the precedent for that? Turns out “Boys, have at it,” the mantra NASCAR CEO Brian France preached these past few years can only work until Big Brother gets mad. Yes, we’re all adults here but the way in which it’s all drawn up makes officials seem like parents having to discipline petulant children. Indeed, the statement written by Vice President Steve O’Donnell, handing down the verdict could have been confused with a father scolding his son for bad behavior.

(Photo: CIA Stock Photo, Inc. ©2015)­
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., a longtime friend of Matt Kenseth stood behind his buddy Sunday. (Photo: CIA Stock Photo, Inc. ©2015)­

“The No. 20 car [Kenseth] was nine laps down,” O’Donnell said, “And eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race. The new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR.” 

It was a poor choice of words, not only because the Chase format has created this environment but the “premium on each and every race” was witnessed by fans just one week earlier at Talladega. In that finish, Kevin Harvick turned hard right into Trevor Bayne, saving his Chase despite a sagging engine while causing a wreck which ended the event and totaled almost a dozen cars. Not enough evidence existed to convict Harvick of race manipulation but the perception by not just fans but drivers themselves was that a dirty trick was pulled.

That maneuver may still bite Harvick yet; even after this suspension for Kenseth rumors abound other drivers will call their “shot” on the No. 4 car at Phoenix. But Harvick, along with Logano the week before, didn’t pay any price for questionable actions. Kenseth getting his head cut off just a few moments later reeks of NASCAR choosing to interfere only when it sees fit.

What’s disgusting about the way it’s done is there’s still a bit of brand marketing involved. Kenseth gets suspended for two weeks; why in the world wouldn’t you do all three? Oh, that’s right; Homestead looms, the season finale where Logano may very well still qualify to run for the title. One Logano win at Texas or Phoenix erases all this madness, corrects the Martinsville mayhem and then the No. 22 could face down its biggest obstacle, Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota en route to a possible title. It’s a scripted storyline, the type of extra “oomph” NASCAR CEO Brian France looks for as part of his “let’s try and ‘create’ as many Game 7 moments as possible” philosophy.

Is this wrestling or is this sport? Somehow, in France’s lifelong mission to make every lap an adrenaline rush he forgot those moments must be created by the competitors themselves. Bill Elliott didn’t need the rules adjusted for a “Game 7 moment” in 1985. He just went out there, busted ass and won the sport’s Winston Million bonus with a performance that helped put NASCAR on the map. Ditto for Alan Kulwicki, the famous 1992 driver/owner champion who recovered from a seemingly insurmountable 278-point deficit under the old system. The sport didn’t need to change any rules or provide a “Chase reset” for Kulwicki to fight back; he and his team created the comeback (along with the drama) on their own.

Athletes competing against athletes creates an authenticity that draws fans to sports. Games decided by officials, whether in baseball or the final laps of racing always leave a sour taste in your mouth. The less outside control over a natural athletic competition, the better, right? Somehow, NASCAR has forgotten this point while using “rules” to cover up the worries of lessening emotion and side-by-side competition. “Why, there’s not enough passing due to poor aerodynamics? No worries! We’ll create double-file restarts so a rule forces everyone racing for position to start side-by-side.”

“There’s not enough battling for position on track? No problem! We’ll turn the focus to pit road, give officials every tool possible to enforce the rules and make an extra effort to punish those who don’t comply.”

It’s creating “solutions” in the form of words on paper that do nothing to solve the problems – just cause more. Their rules are changed so often and so frequently, without consistency, every portion of the sport from the All-Star Race to Friday qualifying is seemingly under a yearly assault. It’s almost like NASCAR forgot the principles of its core, once connected to Republicanism to the point George W. Bush once courted the sport specifically throughout the 2000 and ’04 elections. I bring it up not to play politics but remind us of that Republican principle: A small, streamlined government whose goal is not to interfere in peoples’ lives. The funny (and sad) thing about it all is that even with all this regulation it seems like the sport is more haphazard than it’s ever been throughout its 67-year history.

“It’s a mess right now with everything that’s going on,” said Hamlin. “I wish we had some kind of better structure ’cause right now, it’s kind of the Wild Wild West. Anybody’s doing whatever.”

No wonder why everyone is all up in arms, even drivers like Hamlin willing to tweet their displeasure (the garage has not been this close to mutiny since the late 1960s).

You can only act like judge, jury, and executioner without any pattern of consistency for so long before people start to lose patience and shout, “Enough!” At least the driving corps is willing to do something; fans don’t have the financial connection aside from feeling like they’re wasting money on tickets, watching the sport on television, etc. and have made the simple (although often difficult) decision to walk away. Now, we’ll see more walk away again after another Tuesday saw NASCAR choose to stick its nose in and feel like it needed to meddle. We’ll see this pattern repeated in the coming weeks with franchising, yet another potential new way to qualify and new rules on creating a starting grid.

Here we go again. If only someone would tell Daytona Beach the one rule that might keep them from going out of business: sometimes, when faced with a choice of sticking their nose in, the answer is to simply stay the hell out of it.

Hat tip to Mike Neff for the post-race quotes from Martinsville.

BOWLES AT ATHLON: Breaking Down Where The Sport Stands Now After Martinsville

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About Tom Bowles

Tom Bowles
The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.

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73 comments

  1. Avatar

    The Myth of Matt Continues…

    #1–“Joey was already locked in”. Isn’t that a blatant form of manipulation with that statement. Are we condoning Nascar welfare? His job is to race, as Matt’s was, didn’t work out so well for him. Was Logano suppose to roll over? I think his boss and his sponsors would be mortified. More importantly why does Joey own Matt that courtesy ? I know, I know..I heard it before..maybe a competitor would make nice in the future if I am driving like an ass now, I will pay you back at a future date? Please anybody show me one driver that got paid on that promise???????????

    First off this “driver code” why do agree to it and other’s don’t. The drivers employed on the networks including Champions said BS, why isn’t this code universally embraced? Denny Hamlin of all people is leading the social media social justice charge #FreeMatt. Are you freaking serious?????????????????????????????? And Denny Hamlin of all people speaks out of different sides of his mouth when his not so smart brain tells his mouth to do so. He just bitched about the “Wild Wild West”…Wyatt Earp just came to town and now he flips. SMH.

    ..And the loyalty and commitment of a driver code will go out the window the second it happens to them , and the coveted social media crowd would go for the throat too. Please lets not kid ourselves.

    Maybe Nascar now is saying..this is the consistency. If we as fans bitch about this when it is clearly the correct path, well when and where does the path start that we all so desperately want to happen? Only when it affects your driver?

    This isn’t the days of old, for good or bad. Matt had no business taking other people’s property 10 laps down and ram the race leader, arguable the best all year this could potentially ruin his “Championship” hopes. Does Nascar have a hand in this crap…oh yeah, a big shovel. But Matt has a responsibility too, that he seem not now, not ever to own up to it. He manipulated a race for a vendetta, and look at what happened, of course some fans are thrilled..but the system sucks and they know it too.

    • Avatar

      Nice response kb. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m a decent NASCAR fan, but not a rabid one. I would say that my favorite driver is #24 because he was the one in the 90s who got me to start watching the sport I enjoy watching the races when I can. What I saw on Sunday was total “chickenbleep” (as Joey would say). What happened in Kansas was just hard racing. #22 was faster and wanted to pass but the #20 didn’t want him to. #22 bumped him to let him know that he wanted to get by and it spun him out. That happens. To personally be a big pussy like the #20 was on Sunday has turned me off to NASCAR. I’m done with it if this is how the good ole boys want to race. And the fact that people in the stands cheered that move… ridiculous.

      • Avatar

        Sean,
        In response to your last sentence regarding the cheering I am reminded of a line from the movie Blazing Saddles spoken by Gene Wilder’s character….
        “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

    • Avatar

      Logano could have passed Kenseth at Kansas without wrecking him (mistake #1). Furthermore, he should have discussed the incident with Kenseth not be arrogant about it (mistake #2). And if he didn’t have the smarts to discuss Kansas with Kenseth then why didn’t Nascar sit them down together to air it out (mistake #3). Although I was initially happy Kenseth wrecked Logano at Martinsville (mistake #4), he really shouldn’t have done it. But on the other hand I understand why he did. There is an unwritten code and Joey didn’t abide. That being said, if you suspend Kenseth, then why the heck didn’t Nascar suspend Harvick for wrecking the field at Talladega. It was obvious and blatant. France says he doesn’t want the drivers to control what happens in the Chase other than by clean racing. Then how can Harvick not be punished? BS is right. Nascar has always been inconsistent and always will be.

      • Avatar

        Yep, I thought Harvick’s move was as blatant as Kenseth’s. NASCAR blew that and if they had of made a call there I’m betting Kenseth would have chose a different way to exact his revenge on Joey (he would have made it look more incidental).

        • Avatar

          maybe he should have just jumped him in between the haulers…

          Oh wait, if he was smart he could have said Logano was blocking him.

    • Avatar

      Hey, what Matt did about blocking Joey was nothing wrong. All drivers do it and I’ll bet that Joey would have done the same if he had been in the lead. The biggest problem I have is Joey wrecking him knocking him out of a win and a spot in he chase. Joey was already in the chase and had no reason to wreck Matt other than to get another win and knock him out of the chase. A good driver with a better car can pass another driver who is blocking without wrecking him if he is a little patient. Hey, a lot of us knew and it had been speculated that Matt would get payback at Martinsville so no surprise there. But, since I am not of fan of neither driver I think I can look at this thing through more neutral eyes than some. If Joey wasn’t penalized for what he did then neither should Matt.

      • Avatar

        I agree with you, Larry. I’m not much of a Matt or Joey fan. Nothing against either. But, like you say, Joey was already locked in when he spun Matt. It was a poor decision if you are going for a Championship. It would’ve been better for Logano to continue and try to pass him cleanly. Sacrificing a win at Kansas for a Championship would seem the better bargain.

    • Avatar

      Sean, kb’s response is nothing but that of the president of logano’s fan club. Or his mom. There is nothing wrong with the points this article is making.

  2. Avatar

    Yes, its wrestling.

  3. Avatar

    Read more about Hamlin at #dennychokes.

  4. Avatar

    I’m glad you brought up Pit Selection. The advantage of the first pit stall at Martinsville and other tracks is crap. I still don’t fully understand why it is such an advantage (2 seconds maybe) but it can be fixed. I’d start by parking the blow dryer truck right in front of pit one.

  5. Avatar

    All good points but there always have to be lines drawn and limits defined. From what I’ve seen, the difference between NASCAR and other sports is the reaction to penalties. In football or hockey 99% of the penalties are forgotten as soon as they are served. You don’t read articles the next day listing every penalty called and no one is painting a scarlet letter on someone for a holding call in the first quarter.
    Yet in NASCAR someone gets a penalty for failing a pre-race inspection and it’s published, talked about, and mulled over for days. Why is that? Are we NASCAR fans that gossipy and petty?
    I admit I am as guilty of it as anyone but does anyone have any ideas as to why even the smallest announcement of a penalty in NASCAR is headline news while in other sports they are considered just part of the game?

    • Avatar

      When someone fails pre or post-race inspection, it’s generally viewed as an attempt to gain a competitive advantage outside of the rules. Just like in other sports when people are caught using PEDs, messing with ball inflation, pine tarring bats or scuffing balls, those types of penalties are very much highlighted and discussed by media and fans. A holding call on the field or a foul on the court is just part of the general flow of the game. In racing, speeding on pit road or too many crewmen in the pit box are generally penalties incurred in the flow of the race and not dwelled on as more flagrant violations are. I’d relate a lapped car taking out the leader of the race to a defensive lineman purposefully nailing a QB in the knees late in a blowout game. You betcha that’s gonna get talked about, just like this has been.

      • Avatar

        Yeah, I see your point and it makes sense. It just seems like some of the penalties fans dwell on or are highlighted by the media are minor compared to the parallels you mentioned in other sports. Maybe it’s just that I don’t go to those other sports’ comments sections.

        • Avatar

          It’s a 24/7 news cycle world. Every little irregularity is going to get flogged like the proverbial broken-down jackass in the Kentucky Derby. Or whatever that saying was. I do agree with you that too much focus is put on some things but, that’s the media landscape these days.

  6. Avatar

    be interesting to see if harvick has a target on his back at phoenix.

    i’m surprised no comments about princess sparkle pony’s fine and loss of points?!

  7. Avatar

    True, Ricky Craven’s explanation was perhaps the best yet about “Drivers Code” and how Joey violated it. The military special forces have similar codes they go by. Codes are not written down anywhere , they are part of the person’s DNA. This incident is a good example when code trumps rules. Remember this “Just because it’s a LAW doesn’t make it RIGHT only LEGAL” .

    Yes , Matt “You are One Real Bad Dude”

    • Avatar

      Ricky was way off base. Since when is driver code broken racing someone hard for the win. This whole “driver code” thing is ridiculously stupid. These guys seriously need to start putting on their big boy pants. The fact that these spoiled crybaby’s can’t handle that nascar is a contact sport, is part of the reason fans are leaving. Maybe they need to get a real job like the rest of us if they can’t handle a little contact. And Nascar wonders why its losing its fan base. Its only going to get worse next year and the year after when Stewart leaves. Eventually it will be just a bunch of spoiled rich kids racing that fans cannot relate to in any way. The question I have is, if there is one of Brians prized Game 7 moments on track and nobody is there to see it, is it still a Game 7 moment?

      • Avatar

        But it isn’t the kids who are complaining and whining..it is the over 40 drivers and their fans….SMH. They are the diva’s.

  8. Avatar

    BZF spins the big roulette wheel in his office and comes up with two races. The minions all say “great decision boss!”
    Now the appeal committee will have to do the real work for the governing body. They will evaluate the incident, past practice and adjust the penalty accordingly.
    I am thinking 1 race and some $ for BZF’s bar tab.

  9. Avatar

    what a surprise that Hamlin would disagree with a penalty for his teammate. Shocking really.

    • Avatar

      Yeah, and he’s quite impartial given the run ins he’s had with Logano. Nothing he said, even is brilliant insight on “driver code” can be taken seriously.

  10. Avatar

    Good column, Tom. Nascar is so inconsistent with its rules and enforcement that it is pathetic. If Kyle Petty wants to know why people joke about NASCAR at the water cooler – if there are many of those people actually left – it is because of the inconsisten and silly nature of its calls.

    BZF and NASCAR set this whole thing in motion themselves, last year they let it pass when Newman wrecked Larson to get into the chase. This year they praise a driver for being aggressive but then do a no call when Harvick wrecked the field to maintain his spot in the chase and now the call oh no, this is terrible. NASCAR wants to have it both ways.

    Let’s have Game 7 moments on every lap but don’t do anything that puts the sport in a bad light.
    How about this? Get back to racing instead of this do or die championship format and maybe drivers wouldn’t lose their minds.

    • Avatar

      Gina, Your statement about “get back to racing” reflects the sad part of today’s NA$CAR. The on track product we have is not racing. The fastest pit stops should be part of a race, not “the” thing that determines the winner of an event. Instead of on track competition we have motor sports entertainment with all the add ons that have taken away from racing, not added to. Just a few are: GWC, double file restarts, restart zones, wave arounds, etc, etc. The aero “cars” that can not pass have taken away from and not added to “racing”. I know we are told that the competition is better than ever. A kind word for that is “spin”. Racing and driver personalities vaulted this “sport” into the main stream. Remember when at one time it was said to be second only to the NFL. Racing and driver personalities could re ignite NA$CAR. Of course this is just one man’s opinion. I could be wrong. But: tv ratings, track attendance, grandstand removal, chase/ playoffs, and all the gimmicks in place today would seem to indicate that maybe i am not. Racing, not parades, would cure a lot of NA$CARS ills. (No matter what one’s position on Kennseth-Logano is.

      • Avatar

        Charles, yes, IMO NASCAR has forgotten what made people excited to go to and watch a race. They would rather try and attract fans by gimmick, not substance.

        and yes it is all “spin”. blah blah blah on their parts. Brian France makes all kinds of idiotic statements about how exciting it all is, encourages poor choices & behavior because advancing in the playoffs is so important and gives some drivers a pass and penalizes others.

        I agree with you, too, about the state of the sport. If things were all that wonderful, the tracks wouldn’t be pulling out seats at a substantial rate and the tv ratings wouldn’t continue to tank – not even if the races are on channels that a lot of people don’t get & because of the parade type racing you noted, aren’t interested in paying extra to have as part of the cable package.

        but Brian the buffoon will continue to yammer on about how wonderful it all is and how he is all about right and justice when it is all so much chickens**t.

    • Avatar

      Do people even know what the difference between wrecking and moving someone out of the way? Based on the comments I’m seeing here, I starting to think the fan base isn’t as knowledgeable as I thought they were. I’m actually surprised at how few know the difference. Logano moved Kenseth racing for the win and no “wreck” happened. Kenseth spun but no damage was done to his car. Kenseth on Logano was a pure premeditated “wrecking”. And Newman pulled a classic bump and run on Larson to move him out of the way. Larson lost a position on the track and nothing more. Please learn the difference folks

  11. Avatar

    Tom you hit the nail on the head. Good article. I quit going to these NASCAR races, it just ain’t fun anymore. NASCAR to me is like the federal government run by extreme liberals. I am way, way old school. Then I quit watching on TV, but after this deal I am thru even keepin’ up. just pisses me off & I am too old for that. I am sure Brian France won’t miss my meesley couple grand a year, I am sure the local dirt tracks could use it.
    Charlie Tucker

  12. Avatar

    It seems to me that if a driver wants to win with the bumper he better be prepared to lose with the bumper. There are too many drivers who have the attitude “I can do it to you but you can’t do it to me” around. When Earnhardt punted Terry Labonte at Bristol to “rattle his cage” he can’t complain when Jeremy Mayfield did one of the smoothest bump and runs I’ve seen in a long time at Pocono. Kenseth has used the bumper to win. He can’t complain when he loses the same way. What kind of “code” is that?

  13. Avatar

    What I find amusing about nascar’s decision and the reasons for it fit Logano to a “T”! Nascar talked about the safety reason. Well, Martinsville is a short track with speeds less than half of what Kansas was and to anyone who knows anything about Nascar getting wrecked on a super speedway is far more dangerous than at Martinsville. And, I think they also mentioned something about a non chase driver wrecking a chase driver. Well, the reason Matt is a not chase driver is because Joey werecked him at Kansas and took him out. Just about every reason that Nascar gave was pure BS. And, herein lies the huge problem with this chase format. If someone wrecks you or you get caught up in someone’s else wreck you are pretty much eliminated. The old format is way more fairer in determining a season champion.

    • Avatar

      Logano did not wreck Kenseth at Kansas. Kenseth never hit anything. Logano didn’t take him out, either. Kenseth finished the race running and without damage. As for Logano, his car was destroyed and his day was done.

      “If he ever turns down across in front of me again, I don’t care what lap it is, he won’t make it through the other end of it. If I didn’t hit the chip (on my rev limiter), he wouldn’t have made it through Turn 1 to begin with.” – Tony Stewart after being blocked by Joey Logano at Bristol in 2013. Apparently it’s okay to make contact with a blocking car as long as that car is Joey Logano.

      • Avatar

        Stewart is the biggest two-faced hypocrite when he beaks off about blocking. “Block me, and I’ll wreck you!” Then he turns around and blocks Michael Waltrip at Talladega and wipes out half the field. Oops!

        Yes Carl, Matt was spun, not wrecked. He got fresh tires and carried on. But, go back one week to Charlotte. Junior blocked Edwards and Edwards stood his ground. One difference was that the contact between Edwards and Junior ended up with Junior being put into the wall, thus wrecking him, and Junior ended up multiple laps down after getting his car fixed. Another difference is that Edwards seemed to get a pass on this by fans and the media, despite the situation involving NASCAR’s most popular driver. I wonder if Edwards would have been given that pass by the media and fans if he still drove a Ford for Roush instead of a Toyota for Saint Gibbs Racing?

      • Avatar

        Carl, Logano did wreck Kenseth he was just lucky that Kenseth didn’t hit the wall or get hit by another driver. To me what makes the Kansas incident so bad is that Logano did not have to wreck Matt because Joey was already in the chase and Logano took Matt out. If Joey had been the leader he would have blocked too. Kenseth doesn’t have much of a reputation as a dirty driver but i think he had finally had enough and was going to stand up for himself. None of this would have happen without what Logano did at Kansas. And, with the chase format if you get wrecked it can pretty much take you out.

  14. Avatar

    Good article, Tom. I thought NASCAR had been wise to adopt a ‘hands off’ policy on this stuff and would have appreciated their lack of responsibility that had always in the past only resulted in added controversy and anger at the sanctioning body when they felt the need to intervene. Yet…here we go again!

  15. Avatar

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said in his 1964 Order that he could not use words to describe pornography but “I know it when I see it.”

    Any impartial observer or unbiased fan could see that what Kenseth did at Martinsville crossed the line between competition and pure thuggery. Whether NASCAR has been consistent in the past (it hasn’t) doesn’t change the fact that this decision to suspend Kenseth was correct.

    Again, this should not deteriorate into a popularity contest. If Kenseth is more popular among the fans and other drivers than Logano is irrelevant. I suggest to Bowles, McLaughlin et al. that you picture Kyle Busch coming out of the garage 10 laps down to intentionally wreck Jeff Gordon for some prior wrong, and then ask yourself if you feel that would be OK within the “drivers code.”

    BS.

  16. Avatar

    NASCAR was put in a no win situation. They couldn’t let Matt go without sending the message you can’t get payback by wrecking the race/championship leader when 9 laps down. If they slapped him on the wrist with points and a fine, there would have been outrage on the other side (e.g. Team Penske). NASCAR in part brought this problem on themselves with this Chase format that put so much on the line in such a short time frame. Also, Brian France did himself no favors by basically endorsing Logano move at Kansas. He should have just said when asked that it was a “racing incident” and left it at that. When it comes to consistency, name me a league that has it. Just look at the Ray Rice fiasco in the NFL last year. I bet in the end they gave Matt 2 races because they know on appeal it will be dropped to 1. I guarantee though if it had been Jr. taken out that way at Martinsville, there would be cries to ban the offender from NASCAR for life.

    • Avatar

      I still can’t get past them letting Harvick get away with his punk-ass move wrecking half the field. I guess as long as your still in the chase a different set of rules applies. I guess Matt would have got away with it last week at Talladega.

      • Avatar

        I disagreed with NASCAR’s “no call” on Harvick also. But Happy followed the first rule of cheating: Give yourself plausible deniability.” Harvick COULD have been blocking without the intent to wreck anybody, but Kenseth blatantly crossed the line. NASCAR simply could not ignore the escalating payback war any longer.

    • Avatar

      France didn’t condone a purposeful take-out that seems to have the fans panties in a wad. He said it was a good move by Logano to try and win the race at Kansas in order to eliminate Kenseth that way. He implied it was a racing incident where both parties were racing hard for the win. Most people that can think for themselves knew what he meant. The rest must be a large portion of Nascar fans apparently. He even clarified his comments the following day. Fans and media saying Joey should have just let Kenseth win because Joey already had a win is pretty stupid, but you have to use some critical thinking skills to understand why, so its lost on alot of the fan base sadly.

  17. Avatar

    Good article The fans are speaking loud and clear Sunday’s ratings speak volumes Martinsville 1.9 NFL game between two sub 500 teams (Dallas -Seattle) 19.5 For those who claim the race is on a channel not everyone gets, the question is why does NBC and Fox dump the race onto these secondary channels Because fewer and fewer people are watching Sooner or later NASCAR will notice

  18. Avatar

    For all the “old school” fans here: I remember Earnhardt Sr. punting other cars for position on a routine basis, but I don’t ever remember him coming from the garage laps down to get payback on another driver. Ironhead’s actions were more like Logano’s than Kenseth’s. So if NASCAR isn’t consistent, neither are its fans whose memories are viewed through rose-colored lenses.

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    The real question is what is the point where Comcast calls in the penalty clause and cuts back what it pays Nascar… y’all know there has to be a set point. My bet is that they are getting awfully close to that point.

    I also wonder how well Nascar can justify their position if Dollar General decides to sue them. Now that would be an interesting law suit.

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    Fantastic column Tom – and Charles J. an incredibly great reply. I’ve been a fan ever since we would see small snipits of races on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and I’ve followed NASCAR ever since. Unfortunately, for me this Chase Stuff does nothing – it also sickens me that there are so very many empty bleachers and seats at the tracks since the beginning of the Chase Format. Perhaps BZF should take a serious look at the empty seats, the low numbers of viewers and wonder why. He made the mold: “drivers, have at it” and thus created the current monster. I think it’s high time for racing to go back to being racing – pure and simple. And a query (please correct me if I am wrong or missed something along the way): wasn’t Joey’s father banned from racing after that incident a few years back? I saw him being held back after the race at M’ville…

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    My problem with this whole ordeal lies squarely with NASCAR. For as long as I’ve been watching NASCAR, Bristol and Martinsville have always – ALWAYS – been billed (no doubt to boost ratings) as venues where emotions run high, tempers flare, and PAYBACKS are doled out. NASCAR has advertised it, the announcers have said/alluded to this for years to drum up drama/ratings the week before going to these short tracks. But now, all of a sudden – without any warning, NASCAR says something that has been a part of NASCAR ever since the very beginning is not allowed!

    Worse is the constant arbitrary decisions on who to punish, when, and how severely. They stand there and say things like, “We have to consider safety…”, “We cannot have drivers taking things into their own hands…”, then dole out a measly fine and points loss to Danica for the same exact actions they just slapped Kenseth with a two race suspension for! If NASCAR had ANY credibility, Danica should have received the EXACT SAME PENALTY that Matt received. I don’t care whether it was a Chase eligible driver or the pace car. If you’re standing there using safety and declaring drivers are not to purposely wreck each other, then you have a responsibility to penalize the same infraction in the same manner to EVERY driver that violates that rule!

    I don’t recall any such penalty for Carl Edwards when he tried to kill Keselowski by hooking the RIGHT REAR on a high speed straightaway and launching him into the catchfence a few years ago. No penalty for Jeff Gordon vs Clint Bowyer in 2012? (which had Chase implications). Meanwhile, they spared no punches in slappind down MWR for attempting to manipulate The Chase with Bowyers spin (nearly ruining Truex Jr’s career in the process) while letting Harvick slide this year for essentially the same thing. Also, wasn’t it a “payback” initiated by Logano against Hamlin a while back that had Hamlin missing races due to an injury sustained in that incident? Where was the concern for safety then? I don’t recall any penalty announced for that on either. One thing in common with these extremely heavy handed penalties? They’ve all been levied at Toyota drivers – including Kyle Busch’s suspension for what he did in that truck race. Hmmm…

    Basically, I’m just fed up with NASCAR making the rules up as they go and playing favorites as to who gets penalized and who doesn’t. NASCAR MUST STOP talking out of both sides of their faces. They cannot be allowed to keep saying “Boys have at it” then randomly start picking who they choose to slap down when the boys actually start having at it. It is well past time the rules be written and enforced equally and fairly for ALL COMPETITORS regardless of who they drive for, what brand they drive, who the sponsor is, or what their points position / past Champion status is. The rules need to be clear about what is accepted and what is not, and what the penalties will be if a competitor violates said rules.

    In my eyes, this was a classic NASCAR case where two drivers have been butting heads for a while – it has always worked this way, and scores have been settled on track for as long as I remember. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, it’s how it has always been. IF NASCAR decided to change that stance, they should have announced it and written it in the rule book before a single car took to the track last weekend.

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      Ineffectively taking out a backmarker and crashing yourself, as Danica did is hardly the same thing as what Kenseth did. Sure, it was premeditated and should have been punished harder. But neither Danica nor the 38 were close to the chase or the win.

      Permitting a lapper, regardless of the motivation, to pile-drive a lead car and a car in the Chase is intolerable race manipulation. If NASCAR allowed that to continue, it wouldn’t be long before strategic pile-drives from affiliate teams would be as common as tandem drafting was a few years back.

      Antique hillbilly “code” or no code, this had to be stopped and Kenseth got LESS than he deserved.

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        So it has nothing to do with sportsmanship or safety, is that what you’re saying?
        It’s all about the chase.

        I hate that f-in chase.

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        Exactly, I don’t know of any sanctioning body that would allow drivers to blatantly take out other drivers without a stiff punishment. Most people already think the Chase is a joke, without all this demolition derby crap, so I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Nascar did the right thing on this one. Saying because Joey didn’t call Kenseth and apologize for a racing incident at Kansas, taking him out is justified, is ridiculous. Maybe Matt needs to be reminded of the time he “wrecked” Gordon at Kansas a few years ago going for the win. Guess he forgot about that one and maybe Fox should have been showing that replay over and over during Race Hub all week, instead of the one at Martinsville.

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    It should have been a three race suspension for Kenseth. Bowles is completely wrong. Some unwritten moonshiner’s hillbilly “code” does not justify destroying Ford’s chance at a championship by trying to kill Logano.

    In the real world, Kenseth would be “vacationing” in a jail cell. Kenseth is worth at least $60 million. So parking him for three races (long enough to insure he won’t inflict anymore vigilantism on this year’s championship) wouldn’t even scratch Kenseth’s bloated bank account.

    If Logano were an Earnhardt or a traditional Southerner, few would be criticizing his hard racing at Kansas. But a young “yankee” in a “Brand F” car gets no respect from the “traditional” (Read: WWE) fans and the Chevyphiles. Racing hard against a repeated blocking slow car for a win is part of Logano’s job. Conversely, dangerously pile -driving the leader into the wall when you can’t win is thuggery at its worst.

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      Did you lobby for Logano to be parked in 2013 for trying to kill Denny Hamlin by applying this same “hillbilly code” you so loudly decry now? What goes around comes around…

      “Logano told USA TODAY Sports by phone Monday that he had “no idea” Hamlin was hurt or even that he hit the wall hard when he told Fox: “He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week (at Bristol), so that’s what he gets.””

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      You know the difference between a yankee and a damn yankee, right? I-85 runs north if you don’t like it…

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      Speedzzter, I generally think your comments are idiotic with all the Ford drivel, but your last paragraph hit the nail on the head. If this was Dale Jr that did what Logano did at Kansas, nobody would have said a damn thing. Hell Dale Sr pulled that move constantly and he was a hero to most.

      The media narrative that Joey “WRECKED” Kenseth at Kansas really is pisses me off. He did not wreck him in the least. Kenseth tried to block and he held his ground going for the win. Kenseth spun, never touched the wall, and was allowed to continue. Kenseths was blatant and he deserves his suspension. Obviously, the racing knowledge of the current fan has dropped off dramatically in recent years. But then again, I’m sure most are Jr fans that are still pissed about Logano supposedly knocking Jr out of the Chase, which proves my point.

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        Oh yes he did wreck Kenseth and to say different is crazy! Look, I am not a fan of either Joey or Matt. But, the fact is Joey wrecked Matt at Kansas and Matt wreck Joey at Martinsville. And, a lot of people even commentators said that there might be payback at Martinsville. And, think about this. When Matt was wrecked at Kansas at those speeds Matt was very lucky he didn’t slam the wall or get hit from other cars behind which could have been very ugly. Did you noticed that Brian said yesterday that the penalty on Matt had partly to do with safety? Really? The speeds at Martinsville are half what they are at Kansas so why no concern about safety there? And, did you notice that Brian said that Joey was wrecked by a non chase driver? Well, excuse me Brian but the reason that Matt was not a chase driver is because Joey wrecked him at Kansas. And, to me the biggest thing that concerns me about the wreck in Kansas was that Joey had a win and was already in the chase yet still chose to wreck Matt and knock him out of the chase and take the win from him. And, this chase format is stupid because of situations like this. Someone wrecks you or you get caught up in someone else wreck and you are pretty much out of it. This has happen to many drivers in the past in the chase. Trying to determine a season champion from a ten race playoff is just plain dumb. Remember this, Kenseth’s wreck could have been way worse than what it was and in addition to that it could have involved other innocent drivers behind them. While Logano’s wreck of Matt might be acceptable outside of the chase format. When you are in this format getting wreck pretty much takes you out of it. Therefore, If Joey didn’t get a penalty how in the world can you punish Matt for retaliation?

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    No, NASCAR is boring spec car, gimmicking itself out of business. With NASCAR unable to stick with the same set of rules week to week what else do you expect? How exactly does an organization consistently enforce an inconsistent rule book. NASCAR attempting to enforce anything is laughable.

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    I am a Kenseth fan, have been and probably will continue to be until he moves on. I think Joey could have apologized after Kansas, Nascar could have not commented that it made for great racing to see one competitor try to eliminate another, and say it’s a great competitive move. Then at Talladega, Joey should not have brushed the nose of Matts car on the entrance to pit road – which again was an attempt to say “I am still not sorry”. it seems this has been left out of most discussions on this. Finally I chalk the rest up to the media hyping the fact that Matt needs to provide justice, that it should be swift, and complete, and by not dispensing some form of justice that he is a wimp or pushover. That was the biggest problem the last few days – every article had some mention of how Matt was put out, and Joey had to watch out because Matt was going to come after him. Matt didn’t say anything about that Logano better watch out, he wasn’t happy though. After the wreck at Martinsville – they blame Matt for not answering truthfully that he wrecked Logano – he wasn’t going to. If he said “yeah, I did it” then there is no way to say that you didn’t do it, or mean to do it, or cover your tracks – like Harvick did in his wreck. No driver that I can remember – itch to scratch, might want a caution, etc. ever admits fault – except maybe Big E.
    Finally, if Nascar doesn’t want this sort of behavior in the future, don’t put up commercials or storylines showing Matt wrecking Joey as ads for the next race. If it’s “disgraceful” to racing then it shouldn’t show up in commercials. I disagree with the penalty of a 2 race suspension, I do agree that he needed a more forceful response than Danica’s.

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    Do all of you think this stuff does not happen at your local track? It does! I think Logano brought this on himself. Kennseth probably went out of his way to make it happen, but so what? That is racing in a nutshell. These guys, and the guys at your local track take care of themselves. Why are we even sitting here at our keyboards arguing about this? in fact, I agree with Larry……neither should have been penalized for doing what they do…..racing.

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    Martinsville was first race I did not watch in years. For me, ‘Dega was the last straw. NASCAR has implemented this absurd system in which it could actually benefit a driver’s chance at a championship if he intentionally wrecks the field. I don’t need to watch anymore “Chase” races after that. It is a 26 race season for me now. NASCAR behind closed doors is obviously pleased but the hardcore fans that are the lifeblood of the sport are speaking with their wallets and eyeballs. It’s really a shame. As an aside, not sure if this is accurate, but did see it printed on NASCAR’s site: “There’s an unspoken driver code,” Hamlin said. “We talk about this a lot.” Yogi may have passed, but nice to see someone picking up the torch.

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    I think part of the problem for Kenseth was not just what happened in Kansas, although that was an unnecessary move by Logano, and the fact that Logano did not try to talk it over with Kenseth added to the trouble. But during the Martinsville race, Joey and Brad played some ridiculous games on some restarts to swap the lead and prevent anyone else from getting past them–talk about blocking. During one of those blocking games on a restart, Brad screwed up and took both Matt and Kurt Busch out of meaningful competition. I suspect that for Kenseth, that was the last straw. Once again, he was contending for the win, and once again, antics by Joey contributed to knocking him out of the running. If Brad hadn’t damaged his own car in that idiocy, he might have been a target too.

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    Hey come onnnn!!! Carl drilling Brad for racing incidents how many times? Denny drilling Brad for a racing incident then and then just drilling him later? Oops, I forgot, all the race fans old enough to remember that stuff have walked away or turned off their tv. NASCAR set the table for Kensith’s act. NASCAR should have done no more than it did to Danica. And then in the next driver’s meeting be specific about where the limit is.

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    Good article, also caught the video of Ricky Craven assessing thesituation, kudos to both. Thanks to both for pointing out the idiocy and hypocritical statements by Brian France. Racing has been forgotten in the search for game 7 (reality tv) moments. I think maybe we should all take a two race suspension from watching or attending, afterall only the last race means anything.

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    Good article (esp liked the Craven link) & I can tell you of a small group of fans who had left the sport (for year approx) & had been back for the last few weeks & then saw the suspension have decided they are done again with “brians circus” & they also refferred to his make it up as you go attitude.(note Some are die hard Toyota & some are die hard against) -They all agreed that this mess is caused by the “chase” (I’m inclined to be with them on that) ..IMHO the biggest issue detrimental to stock car racing(besides brian) is the ONTRACK PRODUCT, The racing is awful with these aero cars…Followed by knee jerk reactions(I remeber both Busch’s causing the biggest potential to peoples safety on pit road.. & no suspensions(if ever there was a good reason) ..Jeffy WAITING for Clint to get around the track(& innocent victims there) …Woe is this sport

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    DID YOU NOTICE the IRONY in the fact that one of the three-member appeals board was the promoter of a NASCAR sanctioned track that prides itself in promoting the same behavior he voted to punish Kenseth for.

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    Ive been a fan sine I was a kid going to Darlington with my dad in the early 70’s. I really want to continue to be a fan but NASCAR dictatorship and continued BS like the Kenseth ruling are forcing me further and further from a sport I use to LOVE! My dad wont even watch now after this latest fiasco by NASCAR and thats saying something for a man that knew the Flocks and never missed a race in 70 years. Its a shame and NASCAR better take note that my money and more fans I know are about done spending a dime to watch or follow a sport that is more about rules than racing.