Matt Kenseth's deliberate take out of Joey Logano during last November's playoff race at Martinsville Speedway is one of the more notorious incidents in recent NASCAR history and earned Kenseth a two-race suspension.
But though controversial and an act NASCAR deemed so egregious it handed Kenseth an unprecedented penalty, footage of a nine-lap-behind Kenseth intentionally wrecking race-leader Logano has been regularly shown in television commercial promoting Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville.
So isn't it a bit disingenuous for a track, whose majority of stock is controlled by the France family, which solely owns NASCAR, to air an ad using highlights of Kenseth calculating turning into and driving Logano into the Turn 1 wall? Especially when NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France strongly condemned Kenseth's maliciousness several times?
Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell emphatically said no, when asked by reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte, N.C.
Campbell explained that because Logano wasn't hurt and the fact the incident inspired such reaction it wasn't a "difficult decision" and he wouldn't have been doing his job as a promoter if he chose not to show a snippet of the crash in an advertisement.
"Yeah, it stirred up controversy, but what do people want me to show, the pace lap?" Campbell said. "I mean, really. That would be like you guys — you write about the deal after it happened but you can't do it anymore? Is that going to sell newspapers? Is it going to sell what you do?
"I don't think [the commercial] crossed over the line. ... I wouldn't be doing my job, and I don't think anyone sitting in this room would have done anything any different if what I'm paid to do is sell tickets."
Controversial moments have long been spotlighted in promotional ads by NASCAR and its tracks, including those that resulted in penalties for those involved.
One of the more celebrated incidents took place when brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison fought Cale Yarborough just after the 1979 Daytona 500 had concluded, the first NASCAR race to be televised nationally flag-to-flag. Both Allisons and Yarborough were fined, but the final lap crash that precipitated the fight and the melee itself have become part of stock-car racing lore and is widely credited with propelling NASCAR's popularity to unprecedented heights.
"The golden rule is that if there's an injury or anything like that, certainly you don't cross over that line," Campbell said. "That was a different deal than what NASCAR did with the two drivers — that's between them. It's like people saying now you look at a history book and people want to take certain chapters out of it like it didn't happen. That did happen, so you can't ignore history."
And just as replays of the Allisons fighting Yarborough are prevalent, Campbell predicts video of Kenseth purposefully crashing Logano will become commonplace.
"I guarantee you as we go down the road, I guarantee we'll see that time and time again," Campbell said. "That'll be a part of history, but there again, I guess some people expect you to take that part of the history book out, and I don't see it that way."