Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway ended in volatile, controversial fashion, with leaders Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano clashing with just a handful of laps remaining.
Logano bought a piece of the frontstretch wall with assistance from Kenseth with just a handful of laps remaining, before turning the former series champion around in the first turn. Logano then survived a green/white/checkered flag restart to claim the checkered flag, while Kenseth saw his title hopes severely damaged with a 14th-place finish.
“It was really cut and dry,” said an angry but composed Kenseth afterward. “He picked my rear tires off the ground and wrecked me, so there’s no debate about that one.
“He was a little bit tighter on that short run than I was,” he explained, “and I couldn’t get away from him. All day, we had him pretty good. I thought I was going to be able to stay in front of him. I saw those lapped cars coming and tried getting a couple of runs off the top. I was plenty clear, got up in front of him and he just decided to take us out.”
Logano saw it differently, saying that Kenseth repeatedly blocked him in the late laps, before eventually squeezing him into the outside wall on the frontstretch.
“We were racing each other really hard, and I got in the fence twice on the straightaways,” he said. “He raced me hard, and I raced him hard back.”
Asked about the wisdom of triggering a feud so deep in the Chase, Logano countered, “I didn’t think it was a good move when I hit the wall. I got in the fence twice, (and) I wasn’t going to put up with it. I’m sure we’ll talk about it.”
|Todd Warshaw, Getty Images|
While many observers insist on placing all the blame on one party or another, Sunday’s fireworks were a simple case of two drivers racing aggressively and giving no quarter with an important race on the line. Logano wanted to win, while Kenseth needed to win, in order to salvage his fading championship hopes. Two tough customers laid it all on the line in the final laps, knowing that one of them might not make it to the checkered flag.
There is no question that Kenseth blocked Logano repeatedly over the final few laps. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver admitted as much after the race. There is also no question that Logano had a wheel alongside Kenseth’s right-rear corner on Lap 249, only to be squeezed into the SAFER barrier.
That’s what stock car racing is all about; two drivers racing their guts out in pursuit of the checkered flag, with no excuses and no apologies. Kenseth did what he had to do to maintain the lead Sunday, and Logano did what he had to do in response.
Asked if he believes Logano turned him intentionally, Kenseth said, “Absolutely, 100 percent.”
|Daniel Shirey, Getty Images|
Logano disagreed, saying the pair was “just going for the same piece of real estate.”
He admitted however, that he was not about to be roughed-up by the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, without responding in kind.
“That’s the way I race,” he said. “He raced me really hard and I raced him the same way he raced me. That’s how I’ve always been, and it will always be that way.”
“I’m really disappointed,” said Kenseth afterward. “Yeah, I was running the lane he wanted to run. But isn’t that racing? He’ll probably sleep good tonight. I hope he enjoys that one. It’s not what I would have done, but he had a decision to make and that’s the one he made.
“I’ve probably been one of his biggest supporters. It was an awkward thing, obviously, taking his ride (at Joe Gibbs Racing) and I was excited for him when he started winning at Penske. Strategically, that didn't seem like such a great decision for him. But it's the one he made and that's how he wanted to win. I'm one of the only guys that hasn't been into it yet with Joey, and I've always raced him with a ton of respect.
“I've actually been one of his biggest fans. I'm certainly not anymore, but I always was. It's a shame.”
Logano heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend without a care in the world; the only driver with a guaranteed ticket to the Eliminator Round of the Chase.
Kenseth, meanwhile, staggers into the Alabama speedplant knowing that nothing short of a victory will keep his faltering championship hopes alive.