Amid the mayhem at Charlotte Motor Speedway following the NASCAR Sprint Cups race the 55th Annual Bank of America 500, Saturday night. Brad Keselowski with his #2 Detroit General Parts Ford took his frustrations out on the track, mainly at the Joe Gibbs teammates Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota and Matt Kenseth in the #20 Dollar General Toyota.
NASCAR is reviewing the incidents that took place following the race and the altercations immediately after, and will announce the penalties if any on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, said that Keselowski was asked to come in to give his take of what happened as well as a crew member from the #20, Jesse Sanders a mechanic, Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Kenseth went with Sanders as a team representative, but Ratcliff was not called to the NASCAR Hauler.
“As always, we will look at everything, we’ll continue to gather the facts, the tapes and the video and thing of that nature,” Pemberton said. “Talk to some other people that were around, and we’ll work on that and we’ll come up with something by Tuesday or something, like we normally do.”
And it is not surprising all three drivers are blaming each other for misgivings on the track, resulting in the incidents. But will Keselowski face a fine, as of this moment Keselowski’s Chase hopes are shattered after winning the most races of the season, so he really had nothing to lose and if he wins at Talladega, he will be back in the hunt. So the question it leads to is what fine will hurt the #2’s team the most?
During the final 2 laps Hamlin and Keselowski made contact and Keselowski claimed Kenseth hit him too. Hamlin admitted to brake-checking Keselowski in Turn 3 during the cool down lap, and Keselowski turned left running into the rear bumper of the #11 unsuccessfully trying to spin him.
Adding fuel to the fire, Keselowski then side-swiped Kenseth at the entrance to pit road, as Kenseth had removed his HANS device and seat belts. Bumping into Tony Stewart was a bonus for playing bumper cars. Stewart in the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 car shoved his car into reverse, smashing the front of the #2, resulting in the #2 being pushed into Danica Patrick, driving the GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet. Keselowski drove through the pits into the garage area with Hamlin close on his heels.
A fired up Hamlin climbed out of his car shouting and threw his towel at Keselowski, with crew member from both teams getting involved in the altercation. After cooling off period in his hauler, Hamlin made an attempt to explain his side of the story.
“I was going in Turn 1 and there’s a corner there, so you have to back off and he just plowed into us,” Hamlin said. “He’s (Keselowski) just out of control; he’s desperate, obviously. It’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong because he’s pissed off everyone. Just disappointing!”
More surprising was Kenseth’s actions towards Keselowski as he was walking between the haulers, mild-mannered Kenseth tore off after Keselowski tackling him, and things got highly physical between the two former champions, both Keselowski and Kenseth with their crew members throwing punches and shouting back and forth. Immediately after the incident between the haulers Kenseth spoke to ESPN reporter Dave Burns.
“Besides the race, he (Keselowski) knew I was out there and on that restart wrecked me,” Kenseth said. “I guess I shouldn’t have went out there. Really the safety — he was doing something with Denny there, and I don’t know if he was mad at him. I had my HANS off and my seat belt’s off and he clobbers me at like 50 (mph). With the accidents and stuff that we’ve had around here — the race is over and we’re trying to come back to pit road. If he wants to come and talk about it like a man, then go do that — but to try and wreck somebody on the racetrack and to come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with seatbelts off and drive into the side of me is just inexcusable. There is no excuse for that. He’s a champion and he’s supposed to know better than that.”
There is no love lost between Kenseth and Keselowski; Kenseth tapped the side on Keselowski on the LAP 272 restart, Keselowski slowed but Kenseth plummeted from fourth to 18th in the race. This has not been the first time Kenseth has been outspoken about Keselowski, in May after the Talladega race Kenseth was critical with how Keselowski, who was six laps down, raced up front resulting in ‘The Big One,’ a 14 car pile-up.
As for Keselowski’s side of the story goes like this, “When he came by he swung at my car and tore the whole right-front off of it,” Keselowski said. “When we restarted fifth with no right-front on it, we fell all the way back to 16th and it ruined our day. That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate, and then for some reason after the race the 11 stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight, so I don’t know what’s up with that. And he swung and hit my car and I figured if we are going to play car wars, I’ll join too. You know those guys can dish it out but they can’t take it. And I give it back to them and now they want to fight.”
Speaking on the accidental incident with Stewart, Keselowski said, “I don’t think Tony knew what was going on. He is upset and he has every right to be. His car was tore up. There was a whole lot of other stuff going on, I’m sure when he sees the whole situation, he will understand.”
The altercation led Saturday night’s race winner Kevin Harvick to say, “When you see Matt Kenseth want to fight, you know it’s intense,’ he added that Kenseth’s reaction shows ‘NASCAR has done the right thing with this format.”
With NASCAR set to go back the Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500, perhaps Hamlin’s prediction will come true, as he said, “My guess is he will probably try to wreck everyone.” The GEICO 500 will be held Sunday, Oct. 19 with coverage on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. ET.