Jeff Gordon understands the frustration Matt Kenseth felt with Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
In fact, the four-time NASCAR champion acknowledged, “I was in the driver’s seat when it happened.”
Gordon can relate
Gordon exacted revenge most recently during the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway. Clint Bowyer made contact with Gordon, cutting a tire on the No. 24 Chevy. Gordon returned to the track and retaliated while taking Joey Logano out in the process. Earlier that season, Bowyer took Gordon out of contention at Martinsville after the No. 24 Chevy had led 329 laps and was leading the race in overtime.
Let’s be honest, (Logano) was aggressive. Yes, that was racing, but he didn’t like say he was sorry, nothing. It was like, ‘yeah, I did that and I’d do it again ... And that sticks with somebody — and I think it stuck with Matt Kenseth
Jeff Gordon discussing Kansas finish
On Monday night, Gordon recalled the incident on Performance Racing Network’s Fast Talk.
“It wasn’t long ago that me and Bowyer got into a very similar situation,” Gordon said. “I can relate, certainly to Matt and the frustration that can come from incidents that occur a few different times with a driver and it builds up. Then you have an incident and you lose patience. The adrenaline, the heat of the moment takes over.
“So I can relate to that. I know Matt — and this doesn’t say anything about what kind of person, whether he is a good or bad person. This is just showing that he’s human and I think fans want to see that side of it. Obviously, this takes things to another level and NASCAR will have to address it.”
Following Phoenix, NASCAR penalized Gordon with a $100,000 fine and the loss of 25 championship driver points. Team owner Rick Hendrick was also docked 25 owner points and both Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson were placed on probation until the end of the year.
Logano could have handled Kansas better, says Gordon
Now, Gordon regrets the altercation with Bowyer. After reflecting upon that situation — and others — Gordon asks himself, “What could I have done to have prevented this from happening?”
“I wish I would have handled it differently,” Gordon said. “But I can’t take that back, so it’s how do I handle it from here on. On the flipside, it’s how does Joey handle things differently after Kansas that might have prevented this from happening as well because let’s be honest, he was aggressive. Yes, that was racing, but he didn’t like say he was sorry, nothing. It was like, ‘yeah, I did that and I’d do it again.’
“And that sticks with somebody — and I think it stuck with Matt Kenseth.”
Gordon believes that NASCAR set a precedent following his Phoenix incident with Bowyer where he was fined and penalized but not suspended.
Gordon believes a suspension is not warranted
“I’ll be surprised if they suspend him,” Gordon said of Kenseth. “I think certainly there will be a big, heavy fine. There certainly was in my incident — and I expect that. But I’ll be surprised if they sit him out and I don’t think they should.
“I really don’t think they should because this is going to happen and this is created by the intensity and what’s on the line and especially these knock out rounds where you’re going to raise the intensity in such a way that only people that are in that situation can understand the adrenaline and the frustration and the excitement and everything that comes along with that and sometimes it’s hard to contain that. If you take the chance of a win or a championship away from somebody, you can be assured that they're going to find a way to take it away from that other person as well.”
When Gordon was asked whether NASCAR needs to develop a standard rule for penalizing a driver that intentionally takes a fellow competitor out of contention, he replied that Logano dumping Kenseth at Kansas was “within the rules”.
However, “That doens’t mean that the guy on the receiving end is going to accept that.
“They have to react because they understand the level of safety that can go along with this if this gets out of control,” Gordon said of NASCAR. “In my opinion, it polices itself because you’ve got to put your foot down and say, ‘listen, you've messed with me for the last time. That’s it, it’s done. It’s over.’
“I’ll be honest, me and Bowyer haven't had any more problems since. If I had to guess, I’d be pretty surprised if you ever see anything between Kenseth and Logano again. That part is going to police itself.
“If they do a big fine or penalty, it’s necessary to react that way because they’re a big professional sport. There’s a lot of criticism that would come down on them from the media and the fans. But that’s not going to stop what happens if that same situation comes up again.”