NASCAR has suspended Matt Kenseth for two races for deliberately wrecking Joey Logano in the closing laps on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Kenseth will miss Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway and the race the following week at Phoenix International Raceway. He will be eligible to return for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
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NASCAR said Kenseth's actions constituted a Behavioral Penalty that fell under Sections 12.1, 12.8 of the rule book. Kenseth has also been placed on NASCAR probation for a six-month period following issuance of the penalty notice.
"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. "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."
Joe Gibbs Racing plans to appeal the penalties on Kenseth.
"Joe Gibbs Racing announces today that driver Matt Kenseth will appeal the penalty issued by NASCAR," JGR said in a statement released after NASCAR handed down its decision on Kenseth.
"The appeal will challenge the severity of the penalty which is believed to be inconsistent with previous penalties for similar on-track incidents. There will be no further comments from JGR personnel during the appeal process."
Team Penske, which fields the cars of Logano and Brad Keselowski, issued its own statement Tuesday night.
"While the events that transpired at Martinsville Speedway were certainly disappointing for both of our teams, Team Penske remains focused on and working towards winning this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway and the following race at Phoenix International Raceway in hopes of getting both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway," the statement read.
Kenseth, frustrated over a series of incidents with Logano and teammate Keselowski, drilled Logano into the wall on Lap 454 of the 500-lap race at Martinsville. At the time of the incident, Logano was leading and Kenseth nine laps down.
That was not the first incident between Kenseth and the Penske drivers in the race.
On Lap 435, Keselowski triggered a crash on the backstretch that wrecked Kenseth's car and cost him a shot at a good finish.
Two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway, Logano made contact with Kenseth, spinning him out while Kenseth was leading the race. Instead of winning at Kansas and advancing in the Chase, Kenseth finished 14th. He was eliminated from the championship battle the following week at Talladega in the final race of the Contender Round of the Chase.
Kenseth believes Logano wrecked him intentionally at Kansas.
"He's lying when he said he didn't do it on purpose because he lifted your tires off the ground offset to the left and he's too good a race car driver to do that by accident," Kenseth said of Logano.
The tension between Kenseth and the Team Penske drivers stretches back more than a year. At Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2014, Kenseth infamously ran after Keselowski and put him in a headlock after Keselowski hit Kenseth's car on pit road after the race.
The last time NASCAR suspended a driver for on-track contact was four years ago at Texas Motor Speedway, when Kyle Busch was forced to miss both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races after deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Camping World Truck Series race at that track.
Conversely, NASCAR did not suspend Jeff Gordon for intentionally hitting Clint Bowyer in Phoenix in 2012, or Carl Edwards for flipping Keselowski at Atlanta in 2010.
In addition, Danica Patrick was penalized for an infraction that also took place during the Nov. 1 race at Martinsville. This is a Behavioral Penalty (Sections 12.1, 12.8 of the NASCAR rule book). Patrick has been fined $50,000, assessed with the loss of 25 series championship driver points and placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31.