Matt Kenseth tangles with Brad Keselowski in Charlotte post-race fight

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A tense sequence of events at the end of tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway culminated with a post-race clash involving Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, and their respective crews.

The matter began on the cooldown lap after Kevin Harvick had won the race. Keselowski attempted to spin Denny Hamlin in Turn 3 before running into Kenseth and Tony Stewart at the entrance to pit road.

Stewart took exception and backed his car into Keselowski’s, inflicting serious front-end damage to the No. 2 Ford.

When the group returned to the garage, Hamlin climbed out of his No. 11 Toyota and had to be restrained by his Joe Gibbs Racing team as he expressed his displeasure with Keselowski.

Keselowski then walked away from the scene and in between a pair of haulers when Kenseth came up from behind and forcefully grabbed him.

The scrum escalated between the haulers and included members of their teams for a short time before dissipating.

In post-race comments to ESPN, Kenseth said that as a former Sprint Cup champion, Keselowski should have known better.

“He was doing something with Denny there – I don’t know if he was mad with him,” Kenseth said. “I had my HANS [device] off, my seat belt off and everything, and he clobbers me at, like, 50 [miles per hour].

“The race is over – try and come back to pit road and if you want to talk about it like a man, go do that. But to try and wreck somebody on the race track – come down pit road with other cars and people standing around and my seatbelt’s off – driving in the side of me is inexcusable.”

Kenseth had also made contact with Keselowski on a restart with 63 laps to go that had enabled Hamlin to take over the lead.

In that exchange, Kenseth appeared to have a big run on Keselowski, who then seemed to move up as they went through the tri-oval. Kenseth then clipped the wall and fell out of the Top 15 as he tried to get back up to speed; when asked about it, Kenseth felt Keselowski “ran him out of room.”

Keselowski thought the restart incident with Kenseth was simply a racing deal, but said that when Kenseth took a wave-around to return to the lead lap under the final caution, he hit him.

“When we restart in fifth with no right-front [bumper] on it, we fell all the way back to 16th and it ruined our day,” he said. “It gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate. And then for some reason after the race, the 11 [Hamlin] stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight.”

Then came the incident with Hamlin on the cool-down lap.

“I don’t know what that was all about and he swung and hit at my car,” Keselowski said. “So I figured if we were gonna play Car Wars under yellow and after the race, I’ll join too.

“Those guys can dish it out, but they can’t take it and I gave it back to them. And now they want to fight. I don’t know what’s up with that.”

As for the contact with Kenseth and Stewart, Keselowski appeared to say that it was Kenseth who ran into Stewart, not himself. In any case, Keselowski’s car certainly got the worst of it in the end.

“I rubbed into the 20 [Kenseth] and I think he gassed up and ran into Tony,” Keselowski said. “I don’t think Tony knew what was going on, so he’s probably upset and he has every right to be. His car got tore up.

“But there was a whole lot of other stuff going on, and I’m sure when he sees the whole situation, he’ll understand.”

Hamlin was starting ahead of Keselowski on the restart with two to go and he figured that the Penske pilot would be aggressive considering his situation in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But after what he felt as being knocked up the track by Keselowski, Hamlin decided to brake-check him down the backstretch on the cool-down lap before Keselowski’s unsuccessful attempt to spin him.

“And then we got to pit lane, he just plowed into the 14 [Stewart] and the 20 [Kenseth],” he continued. “The 14, his belts were off and he ran into him. Then he ran into us again coming onto pit road, and then he went to the garage, did burnouts, and knocked somebody’s transmission clear into somebody else’s pit stall.

“He was just out of control.”

Hamlin then said that NASCAR had declared “no tolerance” for such behavior. When asked to clarify that, he then said “NASCAR hasn’t told me anything” before adding:

“They told me, ‘Don’t go after him. You’ve got too much to lose.’ If I would have wrecked, he would’ve been in big trouble. I’d be waiting for him. He cost us six spots, but what goes around comes around.”

Hamlin ended up ninth at the finish, while Keselowski and Kenseth were 16th and 19th respectively.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”