Matt Kenseth went for the win with an aggressive move that included bumping Jeff Gordon with less than two laps remaining in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 on Monday at Martinsville Speedway. Gordon’s reaction was simple – if he wasn’t going to win, then Kenseth wasn’t going to win as well.
With Gordon leading and Kenseth third on the green-white-checkered restart, Kenseth got into the left rear bumper of Gordon’s car to move him up the track and nudge ahead for the lead. They then banged doors down the backstretch before Gordon got into Kenseth’s right rear, turning Kenseth into the Turn 4 wall.
Denny Hamlin snuck past both drivers to win the race, leaving Gordon in third and Kenseth in 18th and both veteran drivers angry with each other.
“Jeff is sneaky,” Kenseth said. “He’s good at that stuff. He comes away squeaky-clean all the time. That’s about the third time he took me out of a top-three finish. I’m about tired of that.
“I pretty much forgot about it for the last couple of years but he never gives me an inch. He wants me out of his way every time he’s faster, and I get out of his way every time he’s faster, but when it comes the other way around, he never wants to give anybody room back.”
Gordon, who got into an infamous shoving match with Kenseth at Bristol Motor Speedway four years ago, said he wanted to see a replay of the incident but it was obvious the Roush Fenway Racing driver got into him from behind.
“We’ve had our run‑ins and different things,” Gordon said. “The way he raced me today, I didn’t think was the way I would have raced him. We’ve had our ups and our downs, but I feel like we’ve been past that.
“I certainly didn’t feel like we had any issues. If somebody hits me, I’m going to hit them. If he hit me, I’m glad I did what I did on the back straightaway. If a guy gives you a cheap shot like that, he doesn’t deserve to win the race, in my opinion.”
If Kenseth hadn’t spun, he likely would be leading the points. He’s third in the standings but still in solid shape in the top 12.
“You never know where you’re going to be in the points in September, though, so you need to get every finish that you can get,” Kenseth said. “Hindsight, I would have done it different. We’re paid to race and try to win and that’s what I tried to do.
“I got under Jeff there and then he proceeded to take us out again running in the top three,” Kenseth said. “He just kept slamming me in the door and knocking me down so low I got in the marbles and then he hit me again and turned me around. It’s a disappointing end.
“I guess it was dumb move on my part. I should have finished third or fourth, but I had an opportunity to go for the win.”
Gordon got a decent jump ahead of Kenseth on the restart, but Kenseth was able to race to the inside of him by the first turn.
“I got an OK restart – spun the tires a little bit, got going, I looked at my mirror [and] the 17 [of Kenseth] was pretty far behind me,” Gordon said. “I made sure I didn’t drive in too deep. Next thing I know, I got nailed. … I made sure he didn’t win the race down the straightaway.”
Hamlin said it was just hard racing two laps from the checkered flag.
“One is going to try to force his way in there, one is going to try to protect his position,” Hamlin said. “Same deal with me and the 48 [of Jimmie Johnson] here in this race last year. He moved me out of the way. What can you do? When you’re the leader, it’s bad in a lot of different ways on a short track because you’re at the mercy of the guy behind you.”