TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Matt Kenseth would not change anything about his actions in a post-race scuffle with Brad Keselowski at Charlotte, where tempers flared as several drivers slipped to the edge of elimination in NASCAR’s championship race.
Brad Keselowski was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for his actions Saturday night. He hit Kenseth’s car near the entrance to pit road, tried but failed to wreck Denny Hamlin after the race and ran into the back of Tony Stewart’s car.
Hamlin tried to confront Keselowski, but he was restrained by his team. Kenseth, angry he was hit while his seatbelts were off, jumped Keselowski from behind but was quickly peeled off the driver. Hamlin and Kenseth were not fined, and Kenseth seemed adamant Friday that Keselowski had it coming.
“I don’t regret my actions,” Kenseth said. “I’m not proud of them or happy about them, but I don’t regret them. I don’t know that I’d do anything different if the same thing would have went down again.”
Kenseth and Keselowski have now tangled three times this season, and Kenseth felt “everybody has their breaking point.” He was nearly wrecked Saturday as Keselowski blocked his attempted pass for the lead at Charlotte, and admitted he swerved at Keselowski under caution with six laps remaining.
Keselowski says that contact damaged his car and prevented him for racing for the win when the race resumed with two laps remaining. The contact under yellow is why he hit Kenseth after the race, though even that is up for debate.
“Brad is greatly exaggerating that point,” Kenseth said. “I did indeed swerve at him … because I was mad he put me in the wall and totally ruined my day, but if you look at his car there is absolutely no damage on it. That was just him greatly exaggerating the story.”
Keselowski did not view it the same.
“He’s entitled to his opinion, as I am to mine,” Keselowski said before Friday practice. “Obviously we have a difference or what happened Saturday wouldn’t have happened. It happened. It’s unfortunate.”
Keselowski did not want to reflect much on the last race because he needed to be focused on preparations for Sunday’s race at Talladega.
One of the most dominant drivers this season, Keselowski is on the brink of elimination from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Four drivers will be cut from the 12-driver field on Sunday, and Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and defending champion Jimmie Johnson essentially need to win at Talladega to advance.
Kenseth is also in the bottom four, but in better position to race his way into the third round.
“This is a huge weekend for me and our team, where we’ve got to pull out a clutch moment, and I don’t want to lose sight of that by spending a whole bunch of time on all that other garbage,” Keselowski said.
Keselowski, a five-time winner this season, is on the brink of elimination after a blown tire at Kansas and then a poor finish at Charlotte, where he plummeted to a 16th-place finish over the final two laps.
Hamlin, upset with how Keselowski had raced him at the end, showed his displeasure by brake-checking Keselowski after the race. That, Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe said, is what triggered Keselowski’s bad behavior.
“He was very upset because he thought we had a shot to win that race and I think probably when (Hamlin) brake-checked him, that just lit the fuse,” Wolfe said. “At that point, you are frustrated and someone ticks you off and you tend to do things that maybe you look back and wish you hadn’t done.”
Kenseth, in a moment of levity Friday, said he regretted he didn’t have a better plan for confronting Keselowski. Because he never threw a punch, he was not penalized, and he was pulled away before the scuffle developed.
“I’m definitely not built for fighting, and it’s not really in my genes, not something I ever really want to do,” Kenseth said. “I didn’t go in there with fists flying or anything else like that. I just wanted to get to him, I guess. I’m not sure I knew what I wanted to do when I got there.”
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