By Dale Hall
NASCAR has signaled that they no longer care about their fan base when they punished Matt Kenseth much too harshly this week. In my opinion, they went way overboard and something I have long feared for is apparently now taking place. The wussification of NASCAR has begun.
In just about every poll that I saw this week after Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano at Martinsville this past Sunday, fans sided with Kenseth about 73% of the time. Most of those fans appeared to be of the opinion that Joey Logano had it coming and he deserved some type of retribution after having wrecked Matt two weeks previously at Kansas Speedway. I was of that same mindset and I was neither a fan of Kenseth nor Logano.
The crowd at Martinsville went wild when Kenseth put Joey into the wall. I actually jumped up and cheered, hooping and hollering when he did it. My wife had to have thought I was crazy much like my late dad did thirty-five years ago when Buck Belue hit Lindsay Scott with that game winning touchdown against the Florida Gators. I immediately knew that this incident would have a major impact on NASCAR much like that play did on the Georgia Bulldogs in their bid for a national championship in 1980. It was HUGE!
I had no idea Sunday that NASCAR would respond the way they have. That response has ticked off many people, myself included.
Brian France came out afterward and essentially supported Joey's wrecking Matt after the race at Kansas, saying that it was "quintessential NASCAR". To me and many others, we believe that by making that statement that he fomented an atmosphere for retribution and rough driving. This week, France attempted to walk back that statement on Dave Moody's show by basically saying that he did not intend it that way. Well, he should have never said it in the first place. It was stupid.
By and large, the media has supported punishing Matt Kenseth for his antics. Immediately after the incident happened, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett pretty much reamed Kenseth a new one. Monday morning, Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone seemed downright mean to callers on their show who disagreed with them as they were coming down hard on Kenseth. Chocolate Myers was tough on Kenseth too. Myers mainly took offense that people were comparing Kenseth's actions to those of his beloved friend, the late Dale Earnhardt. The talking heads on ESPN, who I have very little respect for anyway, had a field day too. Overall, Kenseth took a beating from the media.
I have no problem with Matt being punished and he had to expect to receive some type of sanctions. I just think the sanctions are way too severe. For sure, he just flat out got his revenge against Joey in a most spectacular way in front of God and everybody. It was awesome and I loved every second of it because I thought Joey needed to be taught a lesson that there are consequences for your actions. Ricky Craven explained that much better than I ever could. Watch a video of him doing that by clicking here.
Jeff Gordon, who did something similar to Clint Bowyer a couple of years ago, said that Matt shouldn't be suspended but probably should receive a fine and points penalty like the one he received. You can view Gordon's interview on the subject with Dan Patrick by clicking here.
The question that keeps going through my mind is "Why is Brian France and NASCAR being so hard on Matt Kenseth"? They have taken his punishment to an entirely new level and they are alienating so many of their fans. Why do it? It just doesn't make sense.
To be honest, I am about ready to give up watching NASCAR all together and I have been hearing many others say the same thing. The last time I really got upset and threatened to do something similar was when MLB was thinking about going on strike I believe it was in 1995. Back then, I would go see the Atlanta Braves several times a season. but when they went on strike, I was so mad that I gave up on them and pretty much quit going all together. I think I have been to a total of just three MLB games in the twenty years since. Believe me, I am just mad enough with NASCAR to do the same thing with them.
As I am writing this, the final appeal just came out and the sanctions against Matt Kenseth have been upheld. Taking liberties on an old Erk Russell saying, "Piss on NASCAR and the mule they rode in on!"