Having had the short NASCAR off-season to ruminate on last year’s late-season run-ins with Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano still doesn’t fully understand the thunderous cheers that went up moments after Kenseth deliberately wrecked him at Martinsville Speedway.
Kenseth, who retaliated against Logano for a bump two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway, was running multiple laps down at Martinsville when he moved up the track and took out Logano’s race-leading No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
"Do I understand why fans would cheer for someone to get crashed? No, I don’t," Logano said during the recent Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "It was very surprising to me and it kind of bummed me out a little bit. I wouldn’t say it made me mad. It just bummed me out and disappointed me. It’s not what our sport’s made of, you know? But it is what it is, right? Sometimes you’re the most liked one and sometimes they don’t like you."
While Kenseth, who later served a NASCAR-imposed two-race suspension for the contact, certainly had his supporters in the ordeal, Logano has found no shortage of support, either.
"Yes, there was a lot of noise being made and a lot of cheers when I got crashed, but I also saw more 22 T-shirts and hats and stuff being sold than ever before," said Logano, who failed to advance to the Championship Round due in large part to his Martinsville wreck. "And we hit records last year in that department, but we don’t talk about that. Why don’t we talk about that? There’s a true positive that’s coming out of this in a lot of different ways, but as people we naturally draw to the negative side of it."
"Maybe I’m just a positive thinker and that’s the way I get through life but I want to look at the silver lining and say, ‘OK, where did I grow from this whole thing, internally as a person or externally in what we do as a race team or how we gained a lot of fans throughout this whole thing?’ I couldn’t be more proud of the way we handled every situation, and the way my fans supported me is greatly appreciated."
Even though Logano drew the ire of much of the NASCAR world for wrecking Kenseth at Kansas and refusing to apologize for it, the Team Penske driver doesn’t feel the need to try to repair his image at all in 2016.
"I am who I am," Logano said on the media tour. "I can’t speak for anyone on how they want to judge me. I feel like there’s only one person that can judge me, and it’s not anyone that’s standing across from me right now, so I know internally the things I need to work on as a person, and that’s something I strive to be better at everyday. Whether someone in the grandstands wants to boo you or flip you off, it really doesn’t make a difference at the end of the day. It’s just how you handle those situations and how you present yourself."
Would Logano — who had already punched his ticket to the next round of the Chase when he wrecked Kenseth at Kansas — do anything any differently if placed in a similar scenario this year?
"No. I want to win," he said. "There’s a trophy, right? I don’t know how many times I need to say that. There’s a trophy there; I want to win it. I want to rack up those stats — that’s my goal. That’s what I feel like each and every fan — love me or hate me — pays to go to the race to see is a race. And they don’t want someone saying, ‘I’ve got a win for the next round. I’m just going to chill out and do nothing.’
"I don’t want to do that, personally, and I don’t think any fan’s going to want to pay to watch that. … I sit the in the driver’s meeting every week and they have that trophy sitting up there in the front, and that’s enough for me to say, ‘Let’s try to get that thing. That’s pretty cool.’"