NASCAR issues two-race suspension to Matt Kenseth; points penalty, fine to Danica Patrick

Nov. 3, 2015

Staff Report
NASCAR Wire Service

Sending a clear message that it will not tolerate any actions that alter the outcome of playoff races, NASCAR has suspended Matt Kenseth for two races, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday evening.

After two-plus days of “extensive” review, NASCAR levied some of the stiffest penalties resulting from an act of on-track retaliation – in this case, Kenseth’s wreck of Joey Logano during last Sunday’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

The end result: Kenseth’s streak of 571 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts will end.

With less than 50 laps remaining in the race, Kenseth appeared to intentionally wreck race leader Logano – retribution for a perceived purposeful spin by Logano of the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion in the closing laps at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago.

“Based upon our extensive review, we have concluded that the No. 20 car driver [Kenseth], who is no longer in the Chase [for the NASCAR Sprint Cup], intentionally wrecked the No. 22 car driver [Logano], a Chase-eligible competitor who was leading the race at the time,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “The No. 20 car was nine laps down, and eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race.

“Additionally, we factored aspects of safety into our decision, and also the fact that the new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR.”

Shortly after NASCAR’s announcement, Joe Gibbs Racing – owner of Kenseth’s No. 20 car – issued a statement that Kenseth would appeal the ruling.

“The appeal will challenge the severity of the penalty which is believe to be inconsistent with previous penalties for similar on-track incidents,” the JGR statement said.

NASCAR has informed Kenseth that if he chooses to appeal the penalty, the hearing will be expedited.

Logano, who led a race-high 207 laps and looked well on his way to a fourth-consecutive victory, ended the race in 37th place as a result of the wreck – and in a deep championship hole. Logano currently sits in the last position on the eight-driver Chase Grid, 28 points outside the fourth-place cut-off to make the Championship 4 field at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In all likelihood, Logano will need to win one of the remaining two Eliminator Round races, at either Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC) or Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 15.

In addition to Kenseth’s penalty, NASCAR also issued a 25-point penalty and $50,000 fine to Danica Patrick, who wrecked David Gilliland during Sunday’s Martinsville race.

On Tuesday morning, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive to offer his opinion of the Kenseth-Logano wreck, which foreshadowed this evening’s official announcement.

“We don’t want [a retaliation] to happen again,” France said. “We don’t want any of our events to be altered in a way where they shouldn’t be. That doesn’t mean that they don’t get altered because of hard racing. That’s going to happen depending on what end you’re on. That’s always going to be part of the game of NASCAR. …

“Historically, when someone races you hard, you race them hard. If they’re going to give you no inches late in the race, that’s how you’re going to race them. That’s NASCAR. But what happened on Sunday, that’s not quite the way that we would have liked to have seen that turn out.”