Kenseth and Gordon still playing the blame game

Published 1:09 am Sunday, July 16, 2006

Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon have forged an uneasy peace in the wake of a brief face-to-face meeting.

The two former NASCAR champions spoke briefly on Tuesday during a Nextel Cup test session in Indianapolis, but the chat apparently did little to settle their differences.

“He almost acted like he was mad a me,” said Kenseth, spun out by Gordon late in last Sunday’s Nextel Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

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“I thought we were OK but, obviously, we weren’t,” Kenseth said Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway. “I don’t think we’ll be going out to dinner tonight.

“We talked after Indy but, honestly, when we talked about it, it was kind of one of them things where he came over and apologized but wasn’t very apologetic, if you know what I mean.”

Asked about Kenseth’s comments, Gordon shrugged and said, “I did all I could. I pretty much left it up to him.”

Kenseth had dominated the Chicagoland race. But, Gordon, who obviously had the faster car in the closing laps, got impatient and tried to get past with four laps to go by bumping Kenseth up the track.

The result was a spinout at about 180 mph for Kenseth and a victory for Gordon.

Since it was Kenseth who spun out Gordon on the way to a third-place finish earlier this season in Bristol, payback was the immediate thought.

Gordon insisted last week’s incident was only hard racing and only to move him up the track, not to spin Kenseth.

But Gordon said he can certainly understand why the Roush Racing driver is upset.

“I look at the Bristol incident and this incident is so similar,” said Gordon, who was penalized $10,000 and placed on probation until Aug. 30 by NASCAR for shoving Kenseth when he came up to apologize after the Bristol race.

“He came up to me and said he was sorry and didn’t mean to do it, but I was fuming for a long time after that.

“All I do know, and people can believe me or not believe me, that wasn’t payback. It really wasn’t. It was racing hard and it just happened to be a guy that I had an incident with earlier in the season.”

The four-time series champion said he has watched video replays of the Chicago incident and that it was obvious to him that after the two leaders slowed to drive under the lapped car of Casey Mears, he simply got back on the gas faster than Kenseth did.

“That’s going to be something we might disagree on right now but, at the same time, if we don’t both move on from this, then it’s going to cost both of us a chance at the championship,” Gordon said.

Gordon pointed out he had more to lose by bumping another car right now than Kenseth, who is second in the season points and probably has a spot in the Chase for the championship sewn up.

Gordon’s Chicago victory moved him tenuously into 10th, the cutoff spot for the 10-race playoff with eight races remaining.

Still, Gordon accepted responsibility for the accident.

“Any time a guy gets in the back of another guy, you have to take responsibility for it, and I certainly will,” he said.

“But the clear thing is here that it was not intentional and that’s what we’re all talking about and we need to move on from because it’s over.

“Now we’re at New Hampshire and we’re here to race on Sunday and there’s going to be plenty of action to talk about after this race, I’m sure.”

Kenseth said nothing is going to change for him because of what happened in Chicago.

“My team is doing a great job this year and, to get caught up in something else and take away from your performance or to take away from the goal of trying to get in the Chase and trying to win a championship would be silly,” the 2003 champion said.

“I’m certainly going to let it go and just race as hard as we can,” he added. “But, are we buddies and is everything cool? Not really.”