The late move Joey Logano put on Matt Kenseth to win the Hollywood Casino 400 was the talk of the garage after the race. Was it fair or foul? Was it necessary with Logano already clinching a spot? Did he break driver code by dumping a fellow Chase driver?
More importantly, will Kenseth retaliate at Talladega? You know, the high-speed restrictor plate track that has produced some of the most vicious wrecks in NASCAR history.
“You always race people like you’d like to be raced,” Kenseth said. “That’s what I try to do until that changes and then you race them how they race you. … I’m not going to worry about [wrecking him for a win].
“I’m just going to go onto Talladega and try to do what we can there and then after that we’ll go to the next one and do what we can there.”
Kenseth is a smart driver who knows how to win a championship. Taking out Logano in a must-win race simply isn’t a wise decision.
With Logano having his ticket punched, Kenseth can gain nothing from dumping him at Talladega. In fact, he would likely lose out if he wrecked the No. 22 car early on and couldn’t ultimately win the race. There would truly be nothing to gain from taking Logano out at Dega.
But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made it clear he thought the move by Logano was intentional.
“It’s the end of the race, and I was trying to stay in front of him the best I could and I was in front of him,” Kenseth said. “I didn’t do anything wrong to him.
“The race track is 80- or 100-feet wide down there and I was in front of him. He just chose to spin me out because he wanted to be in the top groove instead of going left and trying to race me for the win the way a man should do it.”
At this point, it’s win or go home for Kenseth. A triumph at Kansas would have propelled him into the next round, but now desperation truly sets in. Without a top-10 finish in either race during the Contender Round, Kenseth’s likelihood of advancing on points is slim.
Similar to nearly every other driver, Kenseth’s stats at Talladega have been erratic at best. Sure, he won at the track in 2012, but that came after a 25-car pileup that he narrowly avoided. Since that win, Kenseth has two top-10 results paired with three finishes of 20th or worse. That equates to an average finish of 18.4 during the last five races since his switch to Joe Gibbs Racing.
Those aren’t exactly comforting numbers. However, it proves there’s still a chance.
With everything invested in one race, Kenseth still has a shot to partner with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates to take down Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other Chase drivers this Sunday. Rather than trying to make life hard on Logano, he’ll hunt for a championship like mature drivers do with their season on the line.
Should Logano have bumped Kenseth? No. Should Kenseth have blocked Logano? No. But in a championship fight late in the season, the gloves have to come off. Expect that to happen when the Chase heads to Martinsville. Especially if Kenseth doesn’t win at Talladega.