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Logano: Dump Job By Kenseth Has Lit A Fire

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 6 2015
Joey Logano said Friday that being wrecked by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville broke his car but not his team's confidence. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Joey Logano said Friday that being wrecked by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville broke his car but not his team’s confidence. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

FORT WORTH, Texas – Joey Logano says he fully understands the message NASCAR delivered this week in response to Matt Kenseth’s decision to wreck him out of last Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

chase 15 logo“The message sent obviously is that you can’t do that,” Logano said during an interview at Texas Motor Speedway Friday morning. NASCAR has suspended Kenseth from competing in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 and next weekend’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship event at Phoenix International Raceway after the 2003 series champion intentionally drove both cars into the Turn 1 wall at Martinsville.

Friday morning, Logano issued a message of his own – this is a test of character that he and his No. 22 Penske Racing team intend to win.

“To be honest, I’m not convinced it’s (the crash) a bad thing,” Logano said, quite calmly and eloquently. “Our team is more fired-up than ever. I’m more focused than ever. I’m pumped-up about being here at the track today.

“What happened last week is what happened last week. Is it the way we wanted it to go? No, of course not. Did we get the finish we felt we deserved that day? No, but this team has plenty of confidence coming off three (Chase wins) in a row and in position for four. There is plenty of confidence and more drive than there has ever been. I’m not convinced this whole thing is a bad thing.”

Logano was in the lead and apparently en route to a fourth-consecutive victory when Kenseth – running nine laps down – punted him into the wall. Both Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry and Logano’s No. 22 Ford Fusion were extensively damaged.

In addition, Logano’s 37th-place finish dropped him into a deep championship hole. Logano

Matt Kenseth has been parked by NASCAR in the wake of his wreck with Joey Logano at Martinsville last week. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

Matt Kenseth has been parked by NASCAR in the wake of his wreck with Joey Logano at Martinsville last week. Kenseth has no regrets (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

currently sits in the last position on the eight-driver Chase Grid, 28 points outside of the 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.

“We know what we have to do. We have to go out there and win,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford this weekend. “The nice part about it is we know we can do it. We’ve done it a lot here recently and this is a good track for us. We’re excited to get out there and start practice, get qualifying done and hopefully get a good starting spot and be ready for the race.”

Logano was fifth at 196.000 mph after recording 20 laps around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval during opening Cup practice. Brad Keselowski, Logano’s Penske teammate, topped the chart at 197.059 mph after just seven laps in his No. 2 Wurth Ford. Cup qualifying is set for 6:45 p.m. (EST).

Kenseth, of Joe Gibbs Racing, lost a pair of appeals on Thursday, although his original six-month probation was reduced to the end of the calendar year. Kenseth has been replaced in the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota here by Erik Jones, current point-leader of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Jones, 19, will be making his third Cup start this season on Sunday.

Kenseth reportedly has said he has “no regrets” over his actions in Martinsville, widely interpreted as retaliation for the bump-and-spin that Logano delivered on the No. 20 Camry as it led with five laps to go at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway on Oct. 18.

“Well, I can’t speak for Matt,” Logano said. “It’s in the past at this point. It’s in the rearview mirror. The only way we will get in the Chase is if we keep looking out the windshield.

“But to answer your question about Kansas, to me, in my opinion – re-watching the race and what happened – I will stay true to what I’ve been saying. I had a great race going there for the lead and there were some blocks thrown and the third time I kept my nose in there and the way I view it personally is that it was hard racing.

“I was re-watching the spring race from Texas here and I was racing (Kevin) Harvick and at t

Joey Logano has three Chase wins and is looking for a fourth this weekend in Texas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Joey Logano has three Chase wins and is looking for a fourth this weekend in
Texas. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

he end of the race here he was on the inside of me and I took the risk of blocking. I took that risk and I knew the consequences. He moved me out of the way. I said that’s what I had coming to me. He kept his nose in there. I knew the chances I was taking. There was nothing I said to him. I didn’t expect a phone call from that. I didn’t expect anything. I felt like in that case I was in the wrong. I put myself in that situation and I got moved up out of the groove. I wouldn’t say Harvick and I are the best of friends but I didn’t have a problem with what he did. That’s the way I feel like racing is. When you make moves like that, you know the risk you take.

“So, no. I felt like we were racing. We were both racing hard and both knew the choices that were being made at the end of the race.”

Logano was asked if he felt anything he said or did post-Martinsville could be interpreted as arrogant.

“I don’t think I’m an arrogant person, to be honest. I’m being myself,” Logano said. “This is one of those situations that you have to be true to your character and true to who you are as a person and retain that faith. If I was arrogant in any way I’m sorry but I don’t feel like I was at all. I feel like I was being myself and being a hard racer, which I have always been and always will be. I don’t believe that’s arrogant in any way.

“I enjoy coming to the racetrack and I guess everyone has their way they can judge you or put something on you or label you some certain way. But when it all comes down there is only one person that can judge me at the end of the day and knowing that makes me feel fine.”

Logano declined to label Kenseth’s penalties as justified – a decision NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian Z. France roundly defended. “It doesn’t affect me. I don’t have a horse in that race,” Logano said. “Our Chase, we are not out of it by any means. We have plenty of time to get ourselves back in. I feel confident that we can do it and what NASCAR makes of their decision doesn’t involve me. I didn’t call them, I didn’t talk to them and what came out (Tuesday) was news to me as well.”

Logano said he has benefitted greatly from the advice of Penske’s hierarchy, particularly team-owner Roger Penske and Walt Czarnecki, executive vice president of Penske Corporation.

“I’m 25-years-old and still have a lot to learn, right?” Logano said. “When you have Roger Penske and Walt Czarnecki as leaders of your race team you listen to them. They have been through every situation that motorsports can present to them. Taking their advice is very important in a situation like this.

“For me, their advice was to look out the windshield. We are not out of this thing and I’m not blaming anyone for what happened. We’re going to move forward. It could be one heck of a story if we win this thing. Like I said, I have more drive than ever. They pretty much just pushed that fact that we need to remember what we need to do. I think to that point you see what happened after the race last week and the way this No. 22 team handled it. There was no yelling, no arguing, they went to work and fixed our race car and we got back out there. Yes, we didn’t gain any points by doing that but we made an amazing statement and I think that’s very impressive for a team to do and I feel privileged to be a part of a team like that.”

Conversely, Logano said he was taken aback by the fans who stood and cheered Kenseth for putting him into the fence. “Was I surprised to see the fans reactions? Yes I was. I was disgusted by it,” Logano said. “That’s not what any racer would expect out of it. But I’m going to look at the silver lining on this one. There were more No. 22 t-shirts and Joey Logano t-shirts and hats…when I was walking out of Martinsville I noticed that. There were more fans rooting for me now than ever. That’s pretty cool.

“Instead of listening to the critics and fans that may not like me, I’m going to look at the silver lining and know that I have more fans than I ever had before and I appreciate every one of them. They are very good people. I feel like they’re not the ones throwing things on the racetrack. I think they are stand-up people and I appreciate having them wearing my t-shirt. That’s something I want to have my name involved with, with people like that, and I appreciate having a lot of support on my side.”

Kenseth will be eligible to return for the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22, when Logano may or may not be in the “Final Four” eligible to win the 2015 championship. Logano said whatever the circumstances, he will not race Kenseth any differently.

“No, we move forward,” Logano said. “Our goal when we get to the racetrack is to win the race. It’s not revenge. It’s not taking someone out. There is a trophy. When I walked in here (infield media center) there is a pretty cool trophy with a cool hat on the top and I want that. When we get to Homestead there will be another cool trophy. I don’t know what it looks like but I bet it’s pretty cool. We are going to want that. That’s the No. 1 goal when this team gets to the racetrack.

“When I say this is a ‘test of character’ that’s what I mean by that. This puts us in a situation where it’s a true test. When you think about being a champion and being a champion in life, this is a true test of the type of person you are. I look forward to the opportunity.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 6 2015
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Sully says:

    A fine racer, a person who tells the truth, more mature and honest then many of his competitors. Family has been a fan of his for some time..Stay true to yourself. Kansas was racing. Martinsville was not. The younger guy has more class and truth than the 43 year old child. Actually pretty much all of the over 40 drivers are entitled and whiney and are mad the younger driver plays by their rules..of course they like to throw the “driver code” in, but make no mistake they throw it out the window when it “suits them”. Hypocrites. Matt is playing his fiddle to the older fans and they are buying his tune. Sad. Everybody is forgetting what happened with Harvick, I didn’t, he didn’t whine, he knew and said as much. People remember what they want too. You would think Jeff Gordon, Matt, Junior…all have had saint status with the group hanging Logano. What a bunch of old ladies not wanting the younger guy to join their bridge club