Matt Kenseth loses both appeals, 2-race ban upheld; 6-month probation reduced
It’s official: Matt Kenseth will miss the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
Thursday morning at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, the three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld Kenseth’s two-race suspension for deliberately wrecking Joey Logano on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Also, on Thursday afternoon National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss denied JGR’s court-of-last-resort hearing, although he did reduce Kenseth’s probation from six months until just the end of 2015.
Afterward, Kenseth minced no words about his unhappiness with the situation.
“I’m more than a little disappointed on the decision and the penalties to start with,” said Kenseth. “… I’m the first driver in the 65-year history of NASCAR to get suspended for an incident that happened in a Sprint Cup Series race. I feel like I was unfairly made the example. I’m extremely disappointed, but we’ll get through this, and I look forward to going to Homestead.
“I’m not going to change who I am,” said Kenseth. “I’m not going to change what I stand for. I’m not going to change how I race. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I feel like I’ve had a pretty good career to this point and I feel like I’m going to continue to have the respect on the racetrack that I feel like I deserve.”
Likewise, team owner Joe Gibbs said he, too, was unhappy.
NASCAR did not comment after the hearing, other than to announce the decision.
The three-member panel — consisting of Langley (Va.) Speedway operator Bill Mullis, Bowman Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis and motorsports consultant and former NASCAR executive Ken Clapp — issued the following statement, which read, in part:
"The National Motorsports Appeals Panel today heard and considered the appeal of a Behavioral Penalty issued on Nov. 3 to Matt Kenseth (driver) relative to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicle #20 at Martinsville Speedway.
"The penalty concerns the following sections in the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 12.1 and 12.8.
"The original penalty assessed included suspension from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months following the issuance of the Penalty Notice.
"Upon hearing the testimony, the decisions of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel are:
1. The Appellant violated the rules set forth in the Penalty notice;
2. The Panel affirms and upholds the original Penalty levied by NASCAR."
Kenseth arrived at the NASCAR R&D Center at approximately 8:10 a.m. Thursday, followed shortly thereafter by JGR team owner Joe Gibbs. Kenseth was smiling as he walked in.
On Tuesday, NASCAR suspended Kenseth for the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and put on probation for six months for deliberately wrecking Logano at Martinsville. Logano was leading the race at the time, while Kenseth was nine laps down.
It was the first time NASCAR had parked a driver for an on-track incident since fall 2011, when Kyle Busch was forced to miss NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races at Texas Motor Speedway after deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the same track.
In announcing the Kenseth suspension, NASCAR left no doubt that Kenseth’s actions were intentional.
"Based upon our extensive review, we have concluded that the No. 20 car driver (Kenseth), who is no longer in the Chase, intentionally wrecked the No. 22 car driver (Logano), a Chase-eligible competitor who was leading the race at the time," said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in a statement issued by NASCAR when the suspension was handed down. "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."