“Kenseth takes him out! Logano into the wall! Caution comes out and the crowd roars!”
What were they roaring for?
It was the kind of noise level usually reserved for when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins or Danica Patrick takes the lead.
At first glance, they’re cheering for retribution as Matt Kenseth ends Joey Logano’s chances at winning Sunday’s Martinsville race, just as Logano did two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, when he sent Kenseth around in the closing laps.
Or they were cheering for what the accident set up. At least 40 percent – OK, maybe 30 percent – of the frenzied crowd was celebrating that Jeff Gordon had taken the lead and was within 45 laps of his first win of 2015, his last year in the Sprint Cup Series.
But there was undoubtedly another segment of NASCAR fandom – that doesn’t swear allegiance to Kenseth or Logano Nation – who was just relieved.
I was just in shock that it actually happened the way it did. I’m even a little disappointed.
But it still happened.
For once, after two weeks of hype and “will he or won’t he?” speculation that would make your grandmother’s favorite soap opera blush, a hypothetical fireworks display was lit in full view of everyone and God.
How many times, whether over their in-car radio or in a post-race interview – has a driver declared that an opponent that allegedly did them wrong should be looking over their shoulder?
If we were to really look into the matter, what would the ratio be of warnings that were lost to history to those that were actually fulfilled their prophecies?
As someone who is still waiting for Kevin Harvick to get back at Kyle Busch for the ending to the Southern 500 in 2011, I think I know the answer.
“We’re going to hook the 18 some other time, he can just be ready for it.”
But the tricky thing with the Kenseth-Logano episode is that Kenseth never publicly called his shot. The media (which I am a member of) did the talk and speculation for him.
It was all heightened by Kenseth’s elimination from the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the two races following Kansas taking place at Talladega and Martinsville, where anything and everything is expected and hoped for.
And then we got it. From a driver that no one would have expected it from before he ambushed Brad Keselowski in-between haulers this time last year.
In the era of “Boys have at it” there has been lots of bark and not the equivalent amount of bite.
It’s short sighted to compare Sunday to the 1979 Daytona 500 or any other race where two drivers on the lead lap crashed each other while fighting for the lead/win/or points.
Remember, it’s NASCAR in 2015.
But the roar of the crowd as the No. 22 and No. 20 came to a rest in Turns 1 and 2 had many layers to it. One of those was elation at someone actually following up when they felt they’d been done wrong.