1. After contact with Joey Logano sent him spinning out of the lead at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago, I fully expected Matt Kenseth to make things tough for Logano in the final four races of the season. I expected him to race Logano hard and cut him absolutely no slack. I expected him to be the toughest SOB to pass in the history of NASCAR. But never – not in a million years -- did I expect to see what happened yesterday at Martinsville Speedway.
2. Sunday’s race provided the perfect storm of both opportunity and circumstance for Kenseth. After contending throughout the day for the win, Kenseth found himself torn-up, out of contention and headed for his second lousy finish in the last three weeks. Logano, meanwhile, was dominating yet again, en route to his fourth consecutive win and a guaranteed shot at the championship at Homestead Miami Speedway. For Kenseth, there would never have been a better time to send a message.
3. Kenseth deserves major bonus points for keeping a straight face while insisting that mechanical failure was to blame for the crash.
4. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was decidedly more forthcoming when he said, “You never like to be in these situations. They really stink, to be honest with you, but sometimes you get put in these spots and you've got to try to keep respect in the garage area.”
5. Logano handled himself impeccably under incredibly difficult circumstances. He answered every question honestly, stated his opinion with eloquence and made no attempt to hide his unhappiness. That’s all we can reasonably ask.
6. Tom Logano, meanwhile, could take a lesson or two in decorum from his son. While young Joey acted his age Sunday, Papa Tom pitched himself a world-class tizzy, rampaged through the garage area in an apparent attempt to kick the ass of Kenseth, or anyone wearing his team colors. The elder Logano was eventually restrained by a handful of Penske Racing personnel, including Shell-Pennzoil Ford crew chief, Todd Gordon. For the record, Mr. Logano, your son is a 25-year old professional athlete, who is more than capable of handling his own affairs without the assistance of his daddy. Pipe down, calm down. It’s not about you.
7. 99.9% of yesterday’s grandstand attendees cheered their lungs out when Kenseth wrecked Logano. They cheered him all the way to his NASCAR-mandated ambulance ride to the Infield Care Center, then booed like banshees when Logano made the same long walk. Interestingly, 88.5% of those same attendees are now demanding that NASCAR fine and suspend Kenseth.
8. For the second week in a row, Denny Hamlin used his post-race interview to chastise NASCAR for failing to control his fellow competitors. "It's a no-holds-barred, Wild, Wild West,” said Hamlin. “The structure… we have around us is not very strong as far as an authority figure saying, 'No, you cannot do that anymore.' I love Brian France, but when he says that drivers are 'doing what they have to do,' it seems like he's promoting this type of racing. It's tough to crown a true champion when things go like this." Denny is entitled to his opinion, of course. But I am the only one who’s tired of hearing drivers say, “NASCAR should protect us from ourselves?” Brian France and Mike Helton don’t drive race cars. Drivers do. These are grown men (and women) who can handle their own affairs, both on and off the race track. They do not need an “authority figure” to teach them right from wrong.
9. A monetary fine will not hurt Matt Kenseth, and it won’t alter anyone’s actions going forward. If drivers feel they have been wronged, they will retaliate.
10. If NASCAR suspends Kenseth, they should probably suspend Danica Patrick, as well. She announced on her in-car radio yesterday that she was going to wreck David Gilliland after they tangled in the opening 100 laps of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. Over 250 laps later, she did just that.
11. There is nothing wrong with rivalry. This sport was built on rivalries.
12. Contact is a part of stock car racing. If you lack the stomach for our specific style of racing, allow me to introduce you to one of the many sports car and road racing circuits that disqualify drivers for engaging in “avoidable contact.” These are the same series that count the number of live spectators on the fingers of one hand.
13. In my 40-plus years in the sport, I have never been in a more electric grandstand than the one I sat in at Martinsville Speedway Sunday. They cheered, they booed, they jumped up and down like a bunch of school kids. I can’t imagine anyone leaving Martinsville last night, feeling they didn’t get their money’s worth.
14. As fans, we say we don’t want “vanilla drivers.” We say we want drivers who speak their minds, stand up for themselves and refuse to toe the politically correct company line. If NASCAR gets back into the business of fining and suspending people for on-track incidents, it’s vanilla ice cream for life.
15. Not too many years ago, Bristol Motor Speedway was the home of contact, crashes, rivalries and hurt feelings. Back then, you couldn’t buy a seat, at any price. Thunder Valley tickets were contested in divorce proceedings and handed down in wills. Today, the crashes and rivalries have been all-but eliminated, and you can purchase all the tickets you want on race day.