Richard Petty and David Pearson. Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer. Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski. Over the years, these have been some of the more famous rivalries in NASCAR, and whether they resulted in drivers coming to blows or just good-natured competition on the race track, they kept fans engaged and wondering just what might happen next.
In late 2015, fans saw another feud develop and come to a head between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. You know the story: Logano and Kenseth make contact while battling for the lead at Kansas during the Chase, Kenseth slides. Logano wins. Kenseth doesn’t advance to the next round.
A few weeks and more issues later, a laps-down Kenseth knocks Logano out of the lead at Martinsville, ending Logano’s bid for four straight wins and eventually leads to Logano bowing out of the Chase. Kenseth was suspended two races.
The two said following the 2015 season that they had put their feud behind them, and through the first nine races of 2016 the two raced each other hard but clean. At Talladega last weekend, however, the two tangled on the backstretch while in the draft. Kenseth was shuffled out and eventually wrecked, an incident he said he wouldn’t have been a part of had the Logano scuffle never happened.
“I thought we were done with that,” Kenseth said about his past with Logano. “[B]ut maybe we aren’t.”
So, is the feud still over or are fans seeing a rekindling of last year’s rivalry?
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Kenseth and Logano are both smart guys. They both know that Talladega is a cruel and unpredictable place, and plenty of drivers get shuffled out of the draft. To attribute that leading to a crash isn’t fair. Plenty of other drivers are wrecked racing at the front, hiding in the back, etc. – basically, unless you’re running by yourself and losing seconds a lap, you’re at risk of hitting the wall. It’s plate racing.
Which is why, I suspect, after a few days to cool off Kenseth won’t push the issue with Logano. Had this occurred on the backstretch of Kansas this weekend it might be a different story. But it didn’t, and while both drivers aren’t giving an inch to each other that doesn’t mean that they’re going to start punting the other. As Kenseth found out last season, there are serious consequences for manipulating the outcome of a race.
And neither driver can really afford the issues that a feud creates right now. Kenseth is in the midst of a tough season that has seen him lead lap after lap yet fail to finish in the top 10 in every race but two. Through 10 races, that’s an abysmal number for a driver that won five times last season and 12 times since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
The drama that would come along with a new scuffle with Logano would distract from Kenseth and company’s righting of the ship, and considering the team is barely in the Chase grid at the moment the No. 20 team doesn’t need drama, torn up equipment and more poor finishes.
Logano, too, would benefit from a continued denouement in this chapter, another in a long stretch of scuffles with other drivers that he’s been a part of during his career. While he isn’t in as dire straits as Kenseth is – he sits seventh on the Chase Grid – he has yet to win a race through the first near-third of the season, and like Kenseth, Logano won multiple times last season and expects to win multiple races this year.
While the sport indeed feeds on drama between competitors, there has been enough great racing this year among other news that fans and the sport can use to promote stock car racing. A new round of drama from competitors who said during the off season that “the best case probably is for everybody to put it behind us and move on” (Kenseth) and “I’m sure this over time will kind of go away and we’ll be able to focus on the season” (Logano) isn’t necessary.
Both drivers will run each other hard the rest of the season, but not because of what transpired at Talladega. They’ll do it because of their mended past and because that’s what race car drivers do: not give an inch. -Sean Fesko
WHY IT’LL CONTINUE
This tandem feud is far from over. Each weekend Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano wind up racing near each other, which should happen due to the competitive cars that they drive. Regardless of what the teams and team owners think of these two scuffling on and off the track, the drivers just don’t like each other.
Kenseth had a rough race last fall in Charlotte. The week following the event in NASCAR’s hub was Kansas, and everyone knows what happened there. That was the start of this ongoing, never-ending feud. It just so happens that the Cup Series heads back to Kansas this weekend.
The brash, 25-year-old Logano just has something about him that gets under the skin of the 2003 Sprint Cup champion. It’s interesting because the racing community has never seen anyone get to Kenseth as the driver of the No. 22 does. It’s really fascinating.
Throughout his 17-year career, Kenseth has never been viewed as a driver who gets into fights, verbal or physical. Arguably, rightfully so, he had every right to retaliate at some point for Logano costing him the shot at his second championship last year. Did he cross the line? Of course, intentionally wrecking another competitor bluntly on purpose should be illegal.
These two drivers are two of the best hard-nosed competitors in the world at what they do. However, every single week you see hard racing between the two which will almost always end up in a disaster.
Go back to Las Vegas earlier this season and these teams wouldn’t give each other an inch on the racetrack for a top-five position. Then think about some of the short tracks that there have been and these two touched, but Kenseth thought the line was crossed Sunday in Talladega.
After leading 39 laps at NASCAR’s biggest track, Kenseth ended up on his roof after getting clipped from Danica Patrick that sent him flying into the inside retaining wall. He blamed Logano for getting him back in traffic with just 15 laps to go.
“I promise you that we are going to race each other right before I’m done racing,” Kenseth said to Logano outside the infield care center.
It was caught by the FOX camera crew, but the words were mumbled. NBC Sports came out Monday on NASCAR America and announced what transpired between the two drivers.
Logano responded by simply saying “If you want to work with us we could have gone to the front.”
The No. 20 Toyota made a bold move to the inside of the No. 22 car down the backstretch and one has to wonder if it were anyone else would Kenseth have made that same move? That’s debatable, but what isn’t is what Logano said on Fox Sports NASCAR RaceHub on Wednesday evening as he was a guest panelist for the broadcast.
“We talked about it Monday night and we kind of went through all the past scenarios and decided let’s start from zero,” Logano said on RaceHub. “Let’s start from scratch and restart this thing because these feuds just keep growing until you talk about it and get to the bottom of it.
Kenseth was on the show Tuesday evening and stated that he felt things were “as good as it could possibly be… and that they understand each other much better.”
Regardless if these two have put everything in the rear view mirror off the track, it needs to be proven on track. It’s ironic that the series is heading to Kansas the weekend after, but it’s impossible for these two to get away from each other.
They can say that all is good and respect each other, but it needs to be proven. Until then it’s doubtful that these two can co-exist.
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