Joey Logano said on Friday at Martinsville Speedway that he wasn’t worried about retaliation from Matt Kenseth in Sunday’s opening race of the Chase Eliminator Round.
Turns out Logano had reason to worry.
Out front and likely headed for a fourth consecutive win, Logano crashed out of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 on Lap 454 of 500 following heavy contact — that appeared deliberate — from Kenseth, who was limping around the track with a damaged car after being involved in a separate wreck just a few laps earlier.
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Kenseth, apparently still angry with Logano about a bump from the Team Penske driver two weekends ago at Kansas that resulted in Kenseth crashing and Logano going on to win, drilled Logano in the left rear-quarter panel, sending both drivers out of the race.
Kenseth radioed to his team during last Sunday’s race at Talladega that he planned to “knock (Logano) out” after the race, and the 2003 Sprint Cup champion seemingly made good on that promise at Martinsville — only it was on the track instead of in the garage.
"Some days you get put in spots you don’t want to be in, for sure,” said Kenseth, whose car suffered heavy damage in an incident with Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch just a few laps before the brush with Logano. “I had two chances to win in the last three weeks and got wrecked out of both of them going for the lead. One from him (Logano) and one from Brad. That’s disappointing. We should have never been in that spot trying to limp that car around and get the finish."
Logano saw Kenseth’s move on Sunday as clear payback for the Kansas incident, but doesn’t believe such a move was warranted.
“I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal,” said Logano, who with a 37th-place finish at Martinsville now ranks last among the eight remaining title contenders. "We were racing for the win and he blocks you a few times and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out. That’s what happened there. Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don’t have anything else to say. It’s a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over. We’ll move on.”
The finish was a severe blow to the championship aspirations of Logano, who arrived at Martinsville on the heels of three consecutive wins. Now 28 points outside the cutoff spot for advancing to the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano will likely need to win next Sunday at Texas or the following weekend in Phoenix to move on.
"We’ll go to Texas and try to win," said Logano, who led a race-high 207 laps at Martinsville. "We’re on a heckuva run. We were still leading the race. We’re not gonna let this take us down. This is a strong team."
Asked by FOXSports.com to offer a perspective on what happened between Kenseth and Logano at Martinsville, Logano crew chief Todd Gordon demurred.
“I don’t really have a perspective on it,” said Gordon. “I know this race team’s done an awesome job and we’d won three (consecutive) races coming here and we were leading when we got wrecked. And we’ll go to Texas and do that again.”
Gordon refused to say whether he believed Kenseth meant to wreck Logano — an incident that sent the crowd at Martinsville erupting into frenzied cheers.
“I’m not getting caught up in all that,” Gordon said. “We focus on what we control, and we’ll go forward with that."