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NASCAR veteran Matt Kenseth earned headlines, cheers and criticism Sunday at Martinsville Speedway for his intentional crash of race leader Joey Logano.

The second part of the melodrama unfolded Tuesday evening.

In response to the Martinsville incident, NASCAR officials announced that Kenseth has been suspended for the next two Sprint Cup races and placed on NASCAR probation for a six-month period following issuance of the penalty notice.

“Based upon our extensive review, we have concluded that the No. 20 car driver [Kenseth], who is no longer in the Chase, intentionally wrecked the No. 22 car driver (Logano], a Chase-eligible competitor who was leading the race at the time," said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "The No. 20 car was nine laps down, and eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race. 
"Additionally, we factored aspects of safety into our decision, and also the fact that the new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR." 

Moments after the NASCAR decision, officials from Kenseth’s team – Joe Gibbs Racing – released a statement indicating that they would appeal the penalty, which ranks as the strongest ever for the sanctioning body for an act of on-track retaliation.
“The appeal will challenge the severity of the penalty which is believed to be inconsistent with previous penalties for similar on-track incidents,” said the Gibbs statement.  “There will be no further comments from JGR personnel during the appeal process.”

Also on Tuesday, NASCAR hit Danica Patrick with a $50,000 fine and a loss of 25 points for her role in a wreck with David Gilliland in the early stages of Sunday’s race. 
The drama surrounding Kenseth overshadowed an emotional victory by 44-year-old four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, who scored his 93rd career win during his final start at NASCAR’s shortest track.

While a jubilant Gordon was being toasted in Victory Lane under near darkness at Martinsville, the debate regarding Kenseth was just beginning to heat up on the national television broadcasts and in social media circles.

Kyle Petty and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett deemed the move by Kenseth “as bad for the sport.”

NASCAR opinion was somewhat mixed in relation to the stoic Kenseth the past three days, with most folks expressing the view that Kenseth was simply reacting to a similar move by Logano in the race at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago.

While Kenseth supporter and detractors took sides on the hot-button story, NASCAR officials undertook an “extensive” review of the incident.

Logano appeared bound for his fourth straight victory when Kenseth steered his damaged car into the side of the Logano on lap 454 of the 500-lap race.

Neither driver was able to finish the event. Logano was forced to settle for a 37th, while Kenseth was 38th.
In interviews immediately after the race, Kenseth mentioned that a problem with a tire or a splitter might have caused the crash. 
Logano expressed his anger soon after his damaged car return to the pits.

“It was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team," said the 25-year-old Logano, who led 207 laps after winning the pole.  "Just a complete coward.”

Entering this weekend’s race at Texas, Kenseth has started 571 events. That streak ranks second only to Gordon.