Logano focused on title chase at Texas with Kenseth absent


FORT WORTH, Texas — Joey Logano arrived at Texas with a clear conscience, an easy smile and a new focus after being intentionally wrecked by Matt Kenseth last weekend.

Kenseth’s two-race suspension begins this Sunday after his appeals were rejected. Logano said the incident at Martinsville when he was leading might not have been such a bad thing.

“Our team is more fired up than ever, I’m more focused than ever, I’m pretty pumped up about being here at the race track,” Logano said Friday. “We’ve still got plenty of confidence.”

Logano is last among the eight drivers still in contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He had won three consecutive races and was leading with 47 laps left when he was wrecked by Kenseth as payback from an incident three races earlier.

NASCAR suspended Kenseth, putting Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing for Sunday’s race. Kenseth’s probation was reduced from six months to the end of the year, but he remains suspended and promised Thursday to race as he always has going forward.

Asked if he felt the penalties against Kenseth were just, Logano said that wasn’t his decision.

“NASCAR looked at it the way they needed to, and they made the decision they felt was right,” Logano said. “Our chase, we’re not out of it by no means. We’ve got plenty of time to get ourselves back in. I feel confident we can get it done.”

Logano again stood firm Friday in his stance about what happened when he wrecked Kenseth at Kansas Speedway, saying it was a product of both drivers racing hard for the win. Logano won, and Kenseth needed a victory to advance to the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

“That was a racing thing, what happened in Kansas,” Logano said. “That was not the way that you ever want to see a race end. … But when I look at it, and the more I looked out, it’s a racing thing, it just happened. It’s unfortunate, but I would understand if the same thing had happened to me.”

When Kenseth returned to the Martinsville track last week in a wrecked car, he was nine laps down. He drove Logano’s car into the wall as Logano tried to pass him.

Fans cheered when Kenseth slammed into Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford.

“Was I surprised to see the fans’ reaction after something like that happened last week? Yes, I was,” Logano said. “I was disgusted by it. It’s not what any driver would expect out of it.”

Logano has finished in the top five in four of his last five Texas starts, including a win in the 2014 spring race. He finished fourth here in April, when with about 20 laps left, Kevin Harvick tapped the rear of Logano’s car to push past him.

“He was on the inside of me, I took the risk of blocking and I knew the consequences, and he moved me out of the way,” said Logano, who watched that race again this week. “That’s what I had coming to me. He kept his nose in there, I knew the chance I was taking.”

There was no need for any conversations with Harvick after that about what happened, and Logano felt the same way after the incident with Kenseth at Kansas.

“Our goal when we get to the race track is to win the race,” Logano said. “It’s not revenge. It’s not taking someone else. It’s a trophy.”

And there could be a big trophy for Logano to seek in the Nov. 22 season finale, when Kenseth will also be back on the track.

Stephen Hawkins

AP Sports Writer

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