This 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season was quite memorable for Matt Kenseth. The veteran driver, in his third year with Joe Gibbs Racing, made the Chase once again and had five wins on the season. Those are the kind of things that every driver wants to achieve.
But the legacy for Kenseth’s 2015 season won’t have much to do with what was a really good season; instead, it will have to do with an incident in the Martinsville Speedway Chase race where, driving a damaged car that was not competitive, he waited for leader Joey Logano to come around and timed it perfectly to wreck the No. 22 and put a serious dent in Logano’s Chase hopes.
The result? Kenseth was suspended for the next two races, something that rarely happens for on-track incidents in the Sprint Cup Series. But what happened at Martinsville was just the end of what Kenseth felt started in earnest at the Kansas Speedway Chase race. He was leading at Kansas and trying to hold off a hard-charging Logano as the laps were winding down.
Now, some will say that Logano had the faster car and that Kenseth was trying to block him. Some may even say Kenseth did that several times. Others might say that Logano had already won in that round of the Chase and was not desperate for a win like Kenseth was, so why put so much pressure on the leader?
Nonetheless, Logano turned Kenseth around that day, ending Kenseth’s chances of winning and effectively knocking him out of the Chase as he did not win at Talladega the next week.
No matter which side you were on, one thing could not be debated: Kenseth believed he had been wronged and promised to gain revenge on Logano at some point. There was no denying that Kenseth felt the need to retaliate; anyone who didn’t see that something was coming just wasn’t paying attention.
So with Logano leading in the Chase race at Martinsville and Kenseth limping around in a non-competitive car, partly because of an accident with Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski (what Keselowski did there is another story for another day), Kenseth was barely moving, waiting for Logano to come around. Kenseth timed it perfectly, taking out Logano and causing one of the biggest stories in NASCAR in 2015.
That incident will always be a big part of Kenseth’s story for 2015. The guess here is that most drivers with an ounce of common sense will avoid wrecking Kenseth on purpose in the future.
The incident overshadowed what had been an excellent season for Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota, a ride that had previously been occupied by Logano. Kenseth’s victories came at the Bristol spring race, the second races at Pocono and Michigan, the fall Richmond race and at the New Hampshire Chase race. The five wins tied him with eventual Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson for second most, behind Logano’s six. Kenseth also tied Jeff Gordon with the second most poles on the season with four.
Kenseth led 927 laps on the season, the fourth most in Sprint Cup, and that comes even with missing those two races due to suspension.
Some other Kenseth-related numbers: fourth in fastest laps run in 2015 with 583, fourth in leading the most miles at 1,150.18, seventh in average finish at 11.8, eighth in laps in the top 15 at 7,648 and ninth in percentage of lead laps run at 87.06.
The suspension pushed Kenseth back to a final finish of 15th in the points.
What lies ahead for Kenseth in 2016 remains to be seen. But good or bad, it will be hard-pressed to contain more intrigue than 2015.