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Appeals Denied: Kenseth Pulled From Cup Car

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 5 2015
Matt Kenseth has been slapped down by appeals process. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

Matt Kenseth has been slapped down by appeals process. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Matt Kenseth lost a pair of appeal rulings on his NASCAR-imposed suspension Thursday, black-flagging his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

chase 15 logoNASCAR suspended Kenseth on Tuesday from participating in the Chase for the Sprint Cup races at TMS and Phoenix International Raceway after ruling he intentionally crashed into Joey Logano during the late stages of Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway. The sanctioning body also placed Kenseth on probation for six months.

In a ruling issued late Thursday afternoon from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss upheld the Behavioral Penalty issued by the sanctioning body. However, the original six-month probation levied was amended to now through Dec. 31, 2015.

Earlier Thursday, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled that Kenseth, of Joe Gibbs Racing, did not provide sufficient evidence to overturn either his suspension or the six-month probation. The rotating three-member panel for the initial hearing was comprised of Ken Clapp, NASCAR’s vice president of marketing development until his retirement in 1999; Bill Mullis, a former driver and the owner of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., and Dale Pinilis, operator of historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Moss’ decision is final and binding on all parties. That said, JGR is expected to enter Erik Jones, currently leading the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point-standings, as Kenseth’s replacement for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval. Jones, 19, already is scheduled to drive in Friday night’s NCWTS WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 and Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR XFINITY Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

Jones said he had not discussed the possibility of driving Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry with crew chief Jason Ratcliffe as of mid-day Thursday.

“No, I haven’t. We’re just waiting to see what happens here with the appeals process in a few hours and see where it goes from there,” Jones said during a Truck Series press conference. “But, you know, obviously the truck and the XFINITY car are my main focus. That’s what I know I’m doing coming into this weekend, so if that (Cup start) were to happen obviously I’m going to do the best I can for them and just keep them in contention and hopefully have a good race for them. We’ll go into the truck race here first this weekend and try to fire-off and get ourselves back to where we need to be in that series.”

Jones will take a 10-point lead over Matt Crafton – the two-time/reigning Truck Series champion – into Friday night’s 147-lap/220.5-mile race. Jones scored his first XFINITY Series race victory here in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. Jones qualified on-pole and led 68 laps of June’s WinStar World Casino & Resort 500 Truck Series race here en route to a disappointing 15th-place finish caused by a voltage issue. Crafton, of ThorSport Racing, won that race and will go for the season-sweep Friday night. Crafton shaved 13 points off of Jones’ lead with his victory last Saturday in Martinsville.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, issued Tuesday’s ruling for the sanctioning body after what he termed “our extensive review. 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.”

Logano, who led a race-high 207 laps and appeared en route to a fourth-consecutive victory, finished 37th after the wreck _ and in a deep championship hole. Logano currently sits in the last position on the eight-driver Chase Grid, 28 points outside of the fourth-place cutoff to make the “Final Four” field at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. Logano now likely will need to win one of the remaining two Eliminator Round races, at either TMS on Sunday (2 p.m. EST on NBC-TV) or PIR’s 1-mile oval on Nov. 15.

Logano is scheduled to meet the media Friday here at 11:15 a.m. (EST).

Kenseth’s penalty concerns the following items in the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 12.1 and 12.8. Earlier Thursday, the aforementioned three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel heard the appeal and decided that Kenseth violated the rules set forth in the Penalty notice. The panel then affirmed and upheld the original Penalty levied by NASCAR.

As reported by nascar.com, the final appeal was only the third hearing overseen by Moss, a former Gulfstream Aerospace executive who joined the NASCAR appeals process last year. Moss also heard the final appeal for Behavioral Penalties against Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing in February and the last appeal for technical penalties against Ryan Newman’s team fielded by Richard Childress Racing in May. In both instances, Moss upheld the decision of the three-member panel.

As noted by O’Donnell, Kenseth was running nine laps down on Martinsville’s half-mile oval when he drove into Logano’s No. 22 Ford Fusion, fielded by Penske Racing, sending both cars in the Turn 1 wall. Neither car was able to continue after suffering heavy damage. NASCAR parked Kenseth for the remainder of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. Kenseth, Ratcliff and team-owner Gibbs were ordered to the NASCAR trailer for a post-race discussion.

Kenseth’s action widely was interpreted as payback after he was eliminated from advancing in the playoffs following a controversial move by Logano on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway on Oct. 18. Contact from Logano sent Kenseth – the race-leader – into a spin that ended the 2003 Cup Series champion’s bid to advance during the three-race Contender Round.

Kenseth’s frustrations with Logano and Penske teammate Brad Keselowski continued in the subsequent events at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and in Martinsville.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 5 2015
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • craig killen says:

    I think nascar got it all wrong, matt should have been fired period end of story, he just got luck that the wreck he caused did not kill joey. don’t go giving me the crap well it was not that bad, look at what happened to earnhart that was not bad either was it. then joey should have been placed right into homestead race even it means nascar would have to create another spot for him just like they did when clint boyer pulled his trick at martinville and they let jeff gorden move on… that’s my take on it. once drivers learn that there are going to be severe actions to pulling a stupid dumb move like that.

    • Amanda says:

      Ok, If Nascar is going to suspend Matt then why not Keven Harvik for taking out half the field to keep him self in the chase. Or how about Jeff Gordon for taking out Clint
      Boyer a couple years ago. I am happy that Matt Finally stud up for him self. He by no means is my favorite driver. But Nascar rules seem so inconsistent. Why is is ok for Joey to push him around and win a race by wrecking out Matt but retaliation is wrong on Matt Kenseths part. Why didn’t Joey get a suspension when he wrecked out Denny Hamlin and broke his back. That was way worse then this. Nascar came up with this new chase grid to make it more interesting. Well they got what they wanted. Jeff Burton said a couple weeks ago, “the new chase grid will challenge your morals” And he was so right. Matt knew what he was doing. But I feel that he was punished way to harshly. Nascar is being selective with punishment. Some driving are saying settle it with your fists. What is that going to do. the officials come in and stop the fight or the crew of the drivers. I say, if some one is messing with you, hit them where it hurts the most. Right in the car. Lest we forget, Dale SR. was one of the dirtiest drivers of all time. While I liked him as a driver, he did what he had to do to win. No one cared then. what is different now? And I say to you Craig Killen: I think you are over reacting. There was safer barrier there, Dale SR. hit the wall and died. But there was no such thing as safer barrier then. Matt Kenneth is a very experienced driver and knew how to take Joey out with out hurting him. He only wanted to hurt his Chase chances. It looked to me like they both walked away just fine.