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EXCLUSIVE - Logano: NASCAR ‘needed to regain control of our sport’

LAS VEGAS - Joey Logano said NASCAR made the right decision to suspend Matt Kenseth two races for wrecking him at Martinsville Speedway because series officials “needed to regain control of our sport.’’

Logano made those comments in an exclusive interview Wednesday with NASCAR Talk’s Tony DiZinno at the Whelen booth at the SEMA Show in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“Obviously, they put their foot down,’’ Logano told DiZinno. “I feel like it’s a good thing. They needed to regain control of our sport. I feel like it’s a good direction and the right thing to do.’’

Denny Hamlin, a former teammate of Logano and current teammate to Kenseth, was vocal Wednesday in saying that NASCAR’s penalty to Kenseth left the driver code on conduct toward one another “more compromised than ever.’’

Hamlin noted that “NASCAR has said in years past and they even said this year, they like the drivers to police themselves.’’

Logano told DiZinno he didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think there’s an actual code,’’ Logano said. “I think everyone’s driver code is different. No one has ever sat down with anyone and said this is the code. I think everyone uses common sense, and that’s what the driver code is.’’

Logano also reaffirmed that his contact with Kenseth at Kansas was different from what happened at Martinsville. At Kansas, they were racing for the lead in the final laps. At Martinsville, Kenseth was 10 laps down and Logano led with 45 laps left.

“If I look at Kansas, it’s a racing thing,’’ Logano told DiZinno. “If I look at the way we were racing each other, he threw some blocks, I understand that. The third one, I was on the inside, I didn’t back out. There’s really not much for me to say to him after that.

“That was kind of what happened. And he knows what happened. He’s a smart enough race car driver to know what happened. Whatever happened at Martinsville was, apparently to NASCAR, unacceptable.’’

Both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. said this week that they believe Logano didn’t help himself with comments he made after the Kansas race, saying that further ignited the situation with Kenseth and played a role in Kenseth’s desire for retaliation.

Logano said he had not heard what Gordon or Earnhardt said, but defended himself.

“I think this is a test of your character and a test of your faith,’’ Logano told DiZinno. “You need to stay true to your character in these types of situations and the type of person you are. It’s an amazing opportunity is the way I look at it. We have an opportunity right now to win a championship.

“Our minds are focused on doing that. We can be the great team we know we are. This isn’t going to shut us down. We’re way stronger than that. I’m excited to get to Texas. I’m excited to get back on the track and give it our best shot.’’

The Sprint Cup series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the second race in the third round. It airs on NBC. Eight title contenders remain. Four will advance to the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jeff Gordon secured a spot in the championship round with his Martinsville win.

Kenseth is not eligible for the title after failing to advance from the second round. He is appealing the two-race suspension. That will be heard Thursday.

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