CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rejected an appeal by Matt Kenseth on Thursday after he challenged his two-race suspension by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano over the weekend during the race at Martinsville.
Kenseth immediately appealed to the national motorsports final appeals officer, whose binding decision was expected later Thursday.
The case is an interesting one for NASCAR, which has not been consistent over the years in punishing drivers who exact revenge. Kenseth was spun out three races ago by Logano as both raced for the win at Kansas, ruining a chance to advance in NASCAR’s championship playoffs. On Sunday, he deliberately crashed into Logano at Martinsville and Logano lost a shot at an automatic berth in the final four.
Kenseth was suspended and put on six months of probation. Danica Patrick was fined $50,000 for wrecking another driver in retaliation on Sunday.
Kenseth was harshly punished to deter any driver from doing the same thing, NASCAR chairman Brian France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday. France referenced the 2013 cheating scandal at Richmond, where Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated a series of events to ensure its driver made the playoffs.
France warned the entire industry after the Richmond embarrassment that manipulating races would not be tolerated — and he indicated what Kenseth did at Martinsville fit that category, so the penalty was much stiffer than the one given to Patrick or drivers for other on-track incidents.
“Going back to Richmond, we’ve been very clear when anybody in the industry, any driver or participant, intentionally tries to alter the outcome of events or championships, that crosses a different line than a racing problem between two drivers,” France said. “So obviously the significance of what was on the line had to be taken into consideration.”
Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000 but avoided suspension for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer in a move that ended Bowyer’s 2012 title chances. Reigning champion Kevin Harvick had no action taken against him two weeks ago at Talladega when he triggered a race-ending crash that preserved his spot in the playoffs.
France said the only difference between what Kenseth and Patrick did on Sunday were the stakes for Logano, the Daytona 500 winner en route to his fourth-straight victory and a berth in the championship finale for the second consecutive year.
Kenseth, the two-time Daytona 500 winner and last series champion before the Chase was introduced in 2004, was uncharacteristically angry for more than two weeks after he was wrecked at Kansas. It was no secret whatsoever he was fuming, but NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske all allowed the feud to simmer rather than intervene before Martinsville.