Is it a double standard for NASCAR to penalize drivers for unsavory conduct on the track, while also allowing tracks and broadcast partners to use it to promote races?That’s a popular topic leading into Sunday’s STP 500 as both FOX Sports and Martinsville Speedway have used footage from October and the controversial incident between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano as part of the overall hype machine for the event.
As a result, all parties involved have been accused of creating a series of conflicts — both praising and condemning what happened when Kenseth intentionally crashed Logano in retaliation for an incident during the playoffs at Kansas Speedway.
The league suspended Kenseth for two weeks while NASCAR boss Brian France went on the record to say that a line had been crossed and his office could not allow a competitor to alter the natural course of a race or championship.
For his part, Martinsville track president Clay Campbell defended his promotional tactics on Tuesday during a media event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, reminding those in attendance that his job was to sell tickets.
“It was not a difficult decision,” Campbell said of marketing the crash footage. “Yeah, it stirred up controversy but what are we supposed to do — show the pace laps?”
Regardless of intent, Joey Logano cost Matt Kenseth a chance to advance in the Chase for the Championship three weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, and the 2003 Sprint Cup Series Champion paid him back on …
Campbell cited the infamous scuffle in the aftermath of the 1979 Daytona 500 between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough as a reason to highlight conflict in his promotional tool box as it was arguably the moment NASCAR was first introduced to a national audience.
Sure, both examples were messy and didn’t paint NASCAR in the best light, but fans have always been drawn to conflict. A savvy promoter like Campbell says he was compelled to capitalize on the raw emotion put on display that night.
Furthermore, Campbell says there are some in the sport who would want to sweep that moment under the rug and act as if it never happened. It absolutely happened and Campbell believes the incident has historical significance.
“It’s like people want to go through history books, cherry pick certain chapters, and act like they didn’t happen” Campbell said. “That did happen. You can’t ignore history. We’re not going to keep beating the drum on it, but I guarantee you it will happen time and time again. It will happen and some people will want you to take it out of the history book and that’s not how I see it.”
What happened at Martinsville between Kenseth and Logano is not a cause for celebration. NASCAR made that clear with its post-race sanctions, but the moment should be remembered. In an era where the Sanctioning Body tries to manufacture so much of its drama, this was a very real moment in the history of the sport.
And there’s nothing wrong with reminding fans of that unpredictability.