Matt Kenseth was feeling OK two days after a vicious crash that prematurely ended a promising Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, however, Kenseth hadn’t talked with Dale Earnhardt Jr. — a longtime friend and rival — who bounced off a curb and straight into Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota, sending the car off track and hard into a tire barrier where it suffered too much damage to continue in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Earnhardt Jr., who immediately took responsibility for the wreck, continued on to record a career-best road-course finish of third while Kenseth was scored with a 42nd-place finish and his first DNF of 2014.
"I have not heard from him actually, which I probably thought I would have," Kenseth said Tuesday afternoon of Earnhardt Jr., with whom he’s enjoyed a good relationship since their days in the Nationwide Series.
After Kenseth’s comments during Tuesday’s NASCAR teleconference, Earnhardt Jr. did reach out later in the day to discuss the incident.
"I mean, I’m sure it was just a mistake," Kenseth said on the teleconference. "I mean, part of the thing is the way the racing is today, it’s much more entertaining to watch, especially road courses. You’re running side by side with those two-wide restarts, and you run two wide at a track that’s really made to run single file, it’s very small and a lot of marbles, and there’s really only one good lane through there. But on restarts you have to run side by side because that’s really your only opportunity to pass after four or five laps and then it singles out. There’s very little passing."
While Kenseth obviously had hoped for a better outcome at Sonoma, a 1.99-mile road course where he’s traditionally struggled but was running competitively on Sunday, the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion is at least publically harboring no ill feelings toward NASCAR’s most popular driver.
"Everybody fights as hard as they can for the spot for the restart, and I kind of rolled outside of him there because everyone was going slow and we were kind of running through there and I had him most of the way clear, and I haven’t really totally seen it," Kenseth said. "I assume he probably just jumped a curb or something and got me in the right rear."
Interestingly, Kenseth was as blindsided by the extent of the damage his car suffered from striking the tire barrier as he was the initial contact with Earnhardt Jr.
"When I got spun out there, it wasn’t funny, but I was looking to the side and I was kind of sliding off and I didn’t feel like I was going very fast and I’m like, ‘What’s over there?’" Kenseth said. "I’m kind of looking (and thinking), ‘I guess I’m just going to slide off the track. Oh, there’s a tire barrier, I hope I don’t hit that very hard,’ and it kind of grabbed a hold of the car and whipped it around. I’m sure there’s a lot of cases where tire barriers are better. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was one of them.
"I think if I would have hit a cement wall, it would have been a lot less damage and actually would have got the car fixed and been able to finish the race. It just grabbed a hold of it and just destroyed that car. It ripped the front frames horns right off of it. It was definitely a surprise."
Despite the car being all but destroyed, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver wasn’t even sore the next day.
"I felt good," Kenseth said. "These guys over here at JGR do a really nice job with the cars and the seats and the safety stuff, and NASCAR has done a great job, as well, over the last half a dozen or dozen years in terms of getting the tracks and the cars and all that safer. I felt good."