FOX NASCAR Analysts Discuss Kenseth/Logano Incident & Gordon's Martinsville Win

Between four-time NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES champion Jeff Gordon’s win Sunday at Martinsville Speedway to advance to the final round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season, and the Matt Kenseth/Joey Logano on-track incident, Sunday’s race was filled with drama.  Below, FOX NASCAR analysts Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip offer their takes on what transpired Sunday:

On the Matt Kenseth/Joey Logano incident Sunday at Martinsville:

Waltrip:  “I wouldn’t be surprised to see NASCAR suspend Matt Kenseth, and if they do, it wouldn’t shock me if they suspended him for as much as the remainder of the season. When you’re a champion responsible for taking the sport into consideration when you act, there’s no way I can excuse doing what Kenseth did. If your car is already torn up, you go back on the track and intentionally put the leader in the wall, that’s unnecessary and inexcusable.  And Matt and I are buddies.  Joey Logano and I are friends, but Matt and I are buddies, and I still take issue with what he did.  But NASCAR has no precedent to suspend him.  However, if this type of behavior goes unchecked, it continues to escalate from week to week. We can try to chalk it up to the Chase and the drama that inherently creates, but NASCAR still is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the sport.  The officials can’t turn their heads, look the other way or say, ‘That’s racing; he had it coming.’ They cannot do that in this instance.  Someone has to make a hard call, and if they’re ever going to do it, now would be the time. Denny Hamlin nailed it when he said it’s like the Wild, Wild West out there.”

McReynolds:  “What Matt Kenseth did was so far beyond the ‘boys have at it’ excuse that it doesn’t belong in the same conversation.  It was a very unclassy move, and if NASCAR doesn’t drop the hammer hard on him, shame on them.  I don’t mean a monetary fine, which means nothing to Kenseth or Joe Gibbs Racing.  I don’t mean a big points reduction.  What do points matter now that he is out of the Chase? What’s the difference between finishing seventh or 12th in the championship standings? And if I even hear the word ‘probation,’ I might lose it.  None of those penalties mean anything.  NASCAR needs to sit Matt Kenseth out for a minimum of one race.  Shame on them if they don’t do it.  The whole NASCAR world is watching to find out if NASCAR will show some class by dropping the hammer on Kenseth.  I lived the ‘do anything for a win’ motto for two years working with Dale Earnhardt, who would have wrecked his mother to win a race. I’m fine with that when it’s for a win.  But when a driver is laps down, rides around and waits on someone to come around the track, drives him into the wall and purposely wrecks him, that action is way over the line.  That’s like a pitcher intentionally hitting a batter or a linebacker spearing a quarterback in the back after he’s thrown the ball. What Kenseth did should embarrass him, his team, his sponsors and Toyota.  Yesterday was a huge black eye for our sport, and if NASCAR doesn’t do something serious to Kenseth, shame on them.

“It’s important to note that I’m a big Matt Kenseth fan and always have been.  He and I struck up a relationship sitting on the back of Robbie Reiser’s hauler at Daytona when Kenseth first showed up to run the XFINITY race that year. Kenseth is a champion and a great ambassador for our sport.  I’m also a big Logano fan and think it would be great if he could move past this and advance to the final round.  But I had to put all that aside yesterday afternoon.”

On how NASCAR should approach similar situations going forward:

Waltrip:  “Making a ‘one-rule fits-all’ rule is hard to do.  But when it’s a racing incident and there’s pure video evidence someone did something intentionally, that’s what NASCAR needs to guard against.  It’s one thing to bump someone in a corner and push him out of the way.  That’s ‘boys have at it.’  It’s another to drive someone into the wall when you’re a few laps down. There has to be a definitive difference between racing each other for position and intentionally wrecking someone.”

McReynolds:  “It’s hard to say what NASCAR should do in the future, or whether they should make a rule or make a rule clearer, because no two situations are ever the same.  That makes this whole topic very complicated.  Unfortunately, it’s just too difficult to set a rule.” 

On the significance of Jeff Gordon’s win at Martinsville with respect to his season and career:

Waltrip:  “It’s funny that a driver who has won 93 races, and some of them really big ones, just won the biggest one of his career at Martinsville.  But that’s how drivers on the backside of their careers view wins. We often hear retiring drivers say wins late in their careers can be bigger than any they’ve ever had, which is how it appeared yesterday with Gordon.  Martinsville is an iconic track, and to have a legend in the sport win there with just three races remaining in his career was very sweet.”

McReynolds:  “You always are hesitant to say winning a race at Martinsville is bigger than four Daytona 500 or five Brickyard 400 wins, but watching Gordon yesterday in Victory Lane told me just how important that win was.  I’ve never seen him so excited in all his years of racing.  He is the lone Hendrick Motorsports survivor in the championship race, and he is leaving a mark on our sport that very few have or ever will leave. Gordon’s win at Martinsville also is huge for our FOX NASCAR broadcast team next year as he steps into the booth in Daytona.  One reason that win was so big is that I’m not sure it was expected by anyone from Gordon and his team to the media and fans.  I didn’t expect it because he had only three top-five finishes going into Talladega – the least amount he’s ever had at that point in a season.” 

On Gordon’s chances of winning the championship:

McReynolds:  “I’d like to see what four drivers make it to Homestead before I can assess his chances fully.  If Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch are in the final round, Gordon’s climb is a lot more vertical than if most of those guys don’t advance.  But he and his team have confidence and mojo, the whole Hendrick Motorsports organization and its resources are behind him, and he runs well at Homestead.  Gordon had a great race there last season and led a lot of laps before a hiccup on a pit stop.  We’ll just have to wait and see what the next two races bring and who advances. But he has a great shot at his fifth and final title.”

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