NASCAR Chairman and CO Brian France said today that the sanctioning body wants to prevent drivers from “taking matters into their own hands” as Matt Kenseth did when he took out leader Joey Logano in the late going of Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
Kenseth wrecked Logano in apparent retaliation for an incident two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway when Kenseth spun out of the lead following contact from Logano on the final lap. Speaking on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive, France said that situation was different from Sunday’s race at Martinsville.
“Late in a race, we expect drivers to take chances to win,” he said. “They’ve got the skill to do it. We expect them to race hard. Blocking is part of this game, as Matt was doing (in Kansas), and contact will happen in NASCAR from time to time. That’s really all that was. The unfortunate thing for Matt is that he had a lot of on the line that day. It’s understandable the disappointment he had. Late in that race, a faster car is behind you and you’re blocking. There’s some contact and you get the short end of it and you go around. That was an entirely different situation than Martinsville.”
France said he will not allow the sport to deteriorate into vigilante justice, with drivers meting out punishment for perceived on-track slights.
“What we’re not going to do is to take the style of NASCAR and parlay that into something where one driver or another believes the way to pay back somebody for something that happened is to take matters into their own hands. Obviously, we won’t be accepting that. The way to pay drivers back is to race them hard. When someone races you hard, you race them hard. If they’re going to give you no inches late in the race, then that’s how you’re going to race them. That’s NASCAR.
“What happened on Sunday, that’s not quite the way we would have liked to have seen that turn out.”
France said that while NASCAR strives to rule fairly and consistently in matters such as this, “all situations are different and that’s hard to follow sometimes. When you don’t have all the facts and you want to say, `That thing between so-and-so at that track that was the same exact thing,’ they seldom are.
“They’re never the same, but there (are) similarities,” said France. “We’ll take some of the history that we have ruled on in the past, because we want to be as consistent as we can. But remember, this (Chase) format is much different than it’s ever been and there is more on the line. We knew when this format was developed that it would present some unique situations for drivers to take more chances… and make the job of officiating the events more difficult for us. We understood that.”
France said he wants drivers to understand that “at the end of the day, there’s a real clear set of requirements to be a NASCAR driver… a set of rules.
“What we want to prevent (from) happening is drivers… to take matters into their own hands and begin to control the outcome of races. When that happens, that’s a very serious thing for us, and we’ll be dealing with that.”
He said Kenseth’s status as a past Sprint Cup Series champion will not impact the sanctioning body’s decision, adding, “(Kenseth is) driving the car, he makes those decisions. It doesn’t matter somebody’s background. It matters what they did that day. We will make sure that what is the acceptable style of racing is always a part of NASCAR and what is not, will not. We have lots of ways to make sure. We will deal with that as we always have, very clearly and very carefully.
“We’ll get it right. That’s our job to do that.”
An announcement on possible penalties is expected later today.