Today, NASCAR announced penalties to Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team. The penalties include suspending Kenseth for the next 2 races, and putting Kenseth on NASCAR probation for a six-month period. Kenseth and team will be appealing the severity of the penalty this week, but no other information was given. Now, that I got the news out of the way, let's get to this opinion thing I have been giving lately. In this post, I want to talk about why Matt Kenseth's punishment didn't fit the crime. I will use 3 main points to defend Kenseth and why this penalty was too severe from NASCAR.
Before we get rolling, I want to be honest and say I thought the punishment was fair and could have been worse, when first hearing about it. I understood the call considering what Kenseth did could possibly ruin a teams championship hopes, but then I heard Ricky Craven's take. Craven who is now retired from racing took an approach I hadn't thought of before. This isn't the exact video I wanted to post, but very similar about the issue that occurred at Martinsville:
Now, that you have watched the video, let's get going on this post! Hope you enjoy the read!
1. The Driver Code:
The video above leads to my first point, the use of the so called 'driver code'. Now, I know this is not a real set of rules, but every sport has one. In the MLB, you don't outshine the pitcher; in the NFL, you don't take a cheap shot at the quarterback. Each sport has it's own ethics that the athletes or participants follow, and NASCAR is no different. In all levels of racing, drivers hold a certain level of respect for one another. Each driver is out risking their lives trying to see who can put the fastest car in victory lane. See, before listening to Craven and giving the topic some deep thought, I didn't think much of what Logano did at Kansas. Now, that I have thought it through I have realized Logano could have easily handled the Kansas situation a whole lot better. Logano had a much faster car than Kenseth in the closing stages of the race, but instead of actually racing Kenseth, Logano decided to turn him around.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying Logano should just let Kenseth go and lost the race, but NASCAR was built on hard-nosed racing. Logano clearly had the stronger car, but instead of giving Kenseth a chance to 'race' for the win, Logano decided to dump him. This is when Logano broke the driver code. Like I mentioned above, all sports have this un-written code, that everyone just knows to follow. In racing it's simple, don't wreck me, race me. Logano broke the cardinal rule, which is what drove Kenseth to do what he did Sunday. Kenseth fully believed that Logano took away his championship hopes, so he was going to at least damage the chances of the #22 team hoisting up the Sprint Cup trophy in just 3 weeks. Kenseth did what he had to do in his mind. Don't be mad, you would do the same exact thing in that moment. I don't condone what Kenseth did, but I understand it. Kenseth, who felt like he was robbed at Kansas gave Logano a little taste of his own medicine.
2. Inconsistencies in the past
I mentioned this in my previous post, and I'll mention it again. If you were to look inside a dictionary and look up the word 'inconsistent', NASCAR may have a picture beside the entry. As much as I love and respect the sport, there is no doubt that NASCAR has room to be more consistent on calls in the sport, especially on penalties. Kyle Busch, mentioned earlier this week that the name on the side of the door decides the penalty. While I do some what agree, that is another topic for another day; though I will say if the name was Earnhardt, Johnson, or Gordon, I believe they would be racing this weekend.
One of the biggest problems with finding a standing ground on Kenseth's issue is that there haven't been many instances where a lap down car has taken out the leader who also happens to be the favorite for the championship. There is only one case where I can even closely relate this issue with, and that is the Jeff Gordon & Clint Bowyer incident in 2012. I mentioned this in my last article as well, because it is almost spot on with what happened Sunday. Gordon who was very upset with Bowyer hit pit road then came back a lap down and took out Bowyer intentionally. If you need a refresher here it is:
The reason I pick this case specifically is because at the time Clint Bowyer was still competing for the championship. Though his was a long-shot, Bowyer still could have won the title, and what Gordon did made it a much harder task. Gordon who was put in the wall by Bowyer a few laps before, came back out and deliberately took out Bowyer as you saw above. See this issue with this is not what Gordon did, but what NASCAR didn't do. NASCAR allowed Gordon to finish out the season with no real punishment. Gordon was put on probation, but let's be honest probation is just saying 'don't let it happen again, or at least until we say it's okay'. Not only did Gordon get off, Gordon made NASCAR look weak the next weekend when he and his #24 team took the checkard flag in the Ford 400. Though I am a Gordon fan, I do realize he got a slap on the wrist. The issue with Kenseth's situation is that he did the same thing, but got a 2 race suspension, while Gordon got the chance to pop champagne.
3. NASCAR has created the 'boys have at it' culture
I know that a lot of this is what I said in the my last article, but honestly these few points are the key reasons why NASCAR made the wrong call. NASCAR started the 'boys have at it' culture a few years ago to gain excitement from the fans. NASCAR wanted to paint the image that the drivers of today are still the rugged bad-boy drivers of the past. More freedom automatically lead to drivers using this freedom in a variety of ways, including wrecking each other. The issue at hand is that NASCAR is now penalizing Kenseth for using the system in which they created. Kenseth 'had at it' with Logano and took matters into his own hands, which is the exact same thing the 'boys have at it' campaign was preaching. Penalizing Kenseth for using the system is like penalizing a student for using a cheat sheet when a teacher tells them they can have a cheat sheet. Bottom line, Kenseth used the system to help accomplish what he thought needed to be done. Don't blame Kenseth for wrecking Logano, blame NASCAR for allowing him to have the outlet to do so.
Well thanks for reading! Again, I urge that I do love and respect NASCAR. This sport is trying hard to make calls, but this one is wrong. I love this sport and support any decision they make no matter how I feel about them. I do believe Kenseth needed to be punished but the punishment given out was just a bit much when you add the factors above! Again ,thanks for reading, hope you have a great rest of your day!! Remember to follow me on twitter @nascar_opinion!!
(PICS AND VIDEO NOT MINE, USED FROM VARIOUS SITES)