KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Matt Kenseth was doing all he could to keep Joey Logano behind him in the closing laps at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
As the two came up on lapped traffic exiting turn 4 with 5 laps to go, Logano had his chance. Kenseth’s momentum was broken and Logano went for the lead. Kenseth moved up the track to keep him at bay and stayed ahead of him as the two went into turn 1. As Kenseth turned down, Logano turned a little lower. He was right inside Kenseth and nudged him in the left rear quarterpanel.
Kenseth’s car was subsequently sliding sideways and Logano ended up in victory lane after a green-white-checker finish for his second-straight win in the Chase.
“I still thought I was going to be able to stay in front of him until those lapped cars came and try to get a couple runs off the top there,” Kenseth said. “I was plenty clear and he just decided to take us out.”
Asked later if he felt Logano’s move was intentional, Kenseth responded with an “Absolutely.” Logano felt he did nothing wrong given Kenseth’s actions preceding the spin.
“It was just hard racing,” Logano said. “He raced me really hard. I raced him the same way he raced me. It was a lot of fun out there racing for a win like that.”
He added the spin wasn’t intentional.
“No, I think we went for the same piece of real estate,” Logano said. “We both went into that corner hard. I wanted to get position and get inside of him and he went for the same piece of real estate as well. I wanted that second lane to be able to stay on the inside of him and thinking he may get trapped up by one of the lapped cars in front of him.”
Kenseth had a fast car at Charlotte last week. But as Logano won the race and automatically advanced to the third round of the Chase, Kenseth finished 42nd. After a pit road miscue, Kenseth collided with Ryan Newman and hit the wall. Another wall-smack later, he was in the garage.
He had another fast car at Kansas. And he was trying to do what Logano had done a week earlier. By winning, Kenseth would also guarantee himself a Chase berth and erase the Charlotte misfortune. Given his perilous points position, Kenseth knew that he likely had to win to advance.
Logano knew that too. Keeping Kenseth out of the Chase means a lesser team advances. Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team – the team Logano left to join Team Penske in 2013 – have been one of the best in the Cup Series in 2015. By preventing Kenseth from winning on Sunday, Logano would leave Kenseth’s Chase fortunes up to the Talladega gods. And as all NASCAR fans know, those spirits can be quite fickle and random.
But while Kenseth was doing all he could to Logano, he was flirting with danger. The line between a driver holding his line and blocking can be quite thin. Kenseth was incredibly close to that line. And he should have been.
Kenseth was so close that it’s easy to see why Logano thought he crossed it. Logano’s car brushed into the wall as the two headed towards turn 1 when Kenseth moved up the track. Kenseth ran him out of room entering the corner, why should Logano give him room in it, especially when there are potential title implications if Kenseth wins?
And there still could be some if Kenseth doesn’t move on. While he didn’t promise retaliation, Kenseth noted the strategical aspect of the incident.
“I was very disappointed that he would do that. Especially, he’s already in, I didn’t run into him. Yeah, I was running the lane he wanted to run in, but my goodness, isn’t this racing? Strategically that probably wasn’t the smartest move on his part, he’ll probably sleep good tonight. I hope he enjoys that one.”
Logano isn’t worried about retaliation. He was confident in his actions after the race, his fifth win of the season. After making it to the final race at Homestead in 2014, Logano looks poised to do it again. His team is acting like a championship contending one and he’s acting like one too.
“You know, as you cool down, you’re able to maybe look at things differently, probably for the both of us,” Logano said. “But right now I look at the way we raced and I say, hey, we raced hard, and that’s what happened. You know, to me, I felt like I got raced really hard. The right side of my car is skinned up. I didn’t just drive it into the fence; you know what I mean? I think it’s just those situations that, you know, obviously build and makes you keep racing hard, and it’s just life. That’s racing. That’s what we do every week.”
Here’s how the Chase standings look after the first two races of the second round:
1. Joey Logano, 2 wins
2. Denny Hamlin, 3,082 points
3. Kurt Busch, 3,077
4. Carl Edwards, 3,076
5. Kevin Harvick, 3,071
6. Jeff Gordon, 3,071
7. Brad Keselowski, 3,071
8. Martin Truex Jr., 3,070
9. Kyle Busch, 3,064
10. Ryan Newman, 3,062
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 3,039
12. Matt Kenseth, 3,305
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