By Sarah Tonsmeire
As the saying goes, “Cautions breed cautions.” This was certainly true last weekend at Martinsville Speedway with eighteen cautions during the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. Leading a mere thirty-five of the 500 laps, Jeff Gordon found himself in Victory Lane on Sunday for his first win this season. Gordon is no rookie to victory lane at Martinsville, Sunday being his ninth win there, but this win could be the most memorable for him. Sunday’s race propelled Gordon into one of the Final Four spots in the Chase. With this being his final season, Gordon can say he made every effort to win a final Championship. Victory lane was full of tears, laughs and celebration for the No. 24 team, but there are others teams who have a different story.
Gordon’s win could have easily been the major headline from Sunday, but Matt Kenseth beat him to it. With roughly 46 laps remaining in the race, Kenseth found himself on pit road following an on track accident that caused heavy damage to his car. Kenseth was wrecked while running towards the front alongside Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch. This accident was deemed the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as Kenseth returned to the track just in time to plow into the side of the No. 22 car of Joey Logano, demolishing both races cars. It was indicated the Kenseth was retaliating following the incident between both drivers at Kansas Speedway a few weeks prior. Madness flooded the racetrack as fans, teams, drivers, and spotters alike tried to decipher what they witnessed. After release, Kenseth was called to the NASCAR hauler to meet with officials. Joey Logano’s winning streak was clearly ended, and he is faced with making up ground to secure a spot in the Final Four.
Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five for Sunday’s race.
On Tuesday, NASCAR released that Matt Kenseth has been parked for the next two races following his actions at Martinsville Speedway, and is placed on probation for six months. Joe Gibbs appealed the penalty, met with the Appeals Panel on Thursday, but the original penalties were upheld. The final Appeals Panel decided to amend Kenseth’s penalty by reduction the probationary period from six months to December 31, 2015.
Danica Patrick was also penalized this week for her actions on the track against David Gilliland at Martinsville Speedway. Patrick was fined, $50,000, docked 25 driver’s points and placed on probation through December 31st of this year.
This weekend, NASCAR heads South to the track now known for having the largest high definition television, named “Big Hoss.” Texas Motor Speedway, located in Fort Worth, sits 1.5 miles long and boasts twenty-four degree banking in the turns. It’s crunch time for the eight remaining Chase drivers, and they have no option but to perform well to continue pursuing the Championship trophy, especially those who were involved in incidents last weekend.
This week’s Fast Five is comprised of drivers who have consistently run well on intermediate tracks this season and who performed well at Texas earlier this year. The Fast a Five drivers to watch include: Jimmie Johnson, who is no longer under the pressure of chasing the Championship, won the race here in the Spring, and has the best average finishing position among active drivers; Kyle Busch, who is a consistently strong performer at mile and a half tracks; Joey Logano, who should be expected to have a strong run this weekend following last week’s incidents, and he posted a top five finish here in the Spring; Kevin Harvick, who hasn’t won at Texas before, but has posted two back-to-back runner-up finishes here; and Jamie McMurray, who has quietly been a strong contender this season, and he posted and top ten finish here in the Spring.
Be sure to tune into the race Sunday at 2:00 Eastern on NBC.