By David Morgan, Associate Editor
In the fall of 2015, the term “quintessential NASCAR” was coined by then NASCAR CEO Brian France with the genesis of the phrase coming after a late race incident between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Both drivers found themselves in contention as the race played out, with Logano running in the top-five for the majority of the race and Kenseth leading 153 laps on the day.
A restart with 20 laps to go placed the two drivers on a collision course with the finish in sight as Kenseth continued to lead, but Logano was quickly chasing him down in an effort to score his second straight fall race win at the 1.5-mile track.
Chewing into Kenseth’s lead as the laps wound down, Logano caught him with five laps to go, leading to the now infamous run-in between the two that had far reaching impacts well beyond Kansas.
Logano made a charge on Kenseth down the frontstretch, with Kenseth throwing a few blocks on Logano as they battled for the lead heading into Turn 1. One of the blocks caused Logano to sideswipe the wall, but he didn’t lose any momentum, and kept his foot on the gas as the two entered the turn, giving Kenseth a shove that sent him for a spin, allowing Logano to get past for the lead.
Kenseth’s spin brought out the yellow flag, setting up a final restart, in which Logano was able to hold off Denny Hamlin for the win.
“It’s hard racing,” Logano said of the incident. “With 15 to go I got to the outside of him down the backstretch, and I had to lift not to wreck both of us at that point, and then kind of got put in the same situation down the front stretch, and then we just happened to go in the same corner and we both went for the same piece of real estate. I wanted that middle lane and so did he, and we collided there. So good hard racing, you know.
“We ran each other hard. He ran me hard, I ran him hard back. That’s just the type of driver I am, the type of racer I’m going to be, and it just comes to that point sometimes to — it’s unfortunate that those things happen, you know, and it’s just hard to — it doesn’t take anything away from our win today.”
While Logano chalked it up to hard racing, Kenseth of course saw things a bit differently as he was on the losing end of the deal, dropping from the lead to 14th, putting his chances of advancing in the Playoffs in peril with one race remaining in the second round of the postseason.
“It’s hard to drive a car with the rear tires off the ground,” Kenseth said. “I was moving around the best I could, Joey (Logano) was a lot tighter, a lot faster on the short run, but we were so much better on the long run. I could still kind of get up to the top and get a run and get around him. We caught those two lapped cars, ‘Crazy’ (spotter) told me I was clear and I was, I pulled up in front of him and he just lifted my tires off the ground and he wrecked us.”
A week later at Talladega, Kenseth and Logano had another run-in, with Logano cutting off and brake checking Kenseth heading to pit road, further angering the 2003 series champion.
“Tell that 22 I’m going to knock his ass out after the race,” Kenseth could be heard saying on his team radio. “You tell him. Tell him to hide behind his daddy. He came from the third lane. I didn’t even think he was going to pit. Turned right down in front of me and brake checked me.”
By the end of the day, Logano was once again celebrating in Victory Lane as Kenseth found himself eliminated from the Playoffs.
The following week, Kenseth would see his chances of winning a Martinsville grandfather clock disappear after getting involved in a crash with Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Returning to the track after lengthy repairs in the garage, Kenseth saw his opportunity to get revenge on Logano for the incidents at Kansas and Talladega.
As Logano tried to pass Kenseth’s wounded race car, Kenseth dove underneath Logano heading into Turn 1 on lap 455, driving him into the outside wall, demolishing both cars and ending the day for both of them.
Of course, we all know what happened next as NASCAR dropped the hammer on Kenseth in the days following the race, suspending him for two races for intentionally wrecking Logano, closing that chapter of the feud between the two that all started with a spin at Kansas.