HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Team owner Joe Gibbs said Thursday that he is looking forward to having driver Matt Kenseth back at the race track this weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season comes to an end. NASCAR suspended Kenseth , the 2003 NASCAR premier series champion, for two races after he intentionally took out Team Penske driver Joey Logano during a race Nov. 1 at Martinsville Speedway . Kenseth had crashed after contact from Logano two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway . Each incident effectively ended the Chase hopes for the two drivers. "It's great having Matt back in there because it's almost like you're missing part of the family when somebody -- (when) one of our drivers is not there," Gibbs said during Championship 4 media day activities here. " … Having him back, yeah, we've talked about that, and he just kind of shared some things with me, and then I shared some things with him. It's the kind of things between the two of us, but I think he felt like the meeting was very beneficial, and I know I felt the same way." Kenseth is one of four Sprint Cup Series drivers competing for JGR, along with Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards . All four made this year's 16-team Chase field. Only Busch has made it into the final round of four. In addition to the two-race suspension, NASCAR officials also placed Kenseth on probation for six months, a move that was ultimately reduced to Dec. 31, 2015 upon final appeal. Kenseth met with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France earlier this week, and Gibbs also met with France separately. Gibbs said he has spoken by phone with Roger Penske, owner of the Logano and Keselowski entries. The Martinsville incident was a product of something that "started weeks before,' Gibbs said when asked if he approved of Kenseth's actions. "To be truthful, I don't tell drivers about their relationship with other drivers and kind of what happens on the race track. I'll leave that up to them. But I think in this case I kind of stated what I felt before, and I'm going to leave that there." "I think there are certain things that have happened in the past where you would say, ‘hey, this is definitely wrong.' I know I have with drivers, and said, ‘look, this is not something we're all about,' and we have all those kinds of discussions. You go through some tough things. "And then there are other times that you kind of feel like, 'hey, it's our responsibility, we're a team, and we're going to stand up for each other.'" NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Erik Jones handled the driving duties for the No. 20 team during Kenseth's absence, finishing 12th at Texas and 19th at Phoenix.
RELATED: Watch video of the Martinsville incident HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Rivals Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano met with NASCAR officials Friday morning before opening Sprint Cup Series practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Kenseth , returning from a two-race suspension for NASCAR's season-ending weekend, told a small group of reporters that the two drivers met in the hopes of moving past their escalated feud during this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. NASCAR.com independently confirmed that such a meeting took place. "Everything will be fine there," Kenseth told reporters, making his first remarks since two penalties appeals were denied Nov. 5. "I wish none of it would have happened obviously. There's probably certain things we'll never totally agree on, but I think long term it probably will be fine, and I think we will work it all out." Logano, who landed the second starting spot for the season finale in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, was brief in his comments about the meeting, joking, "We haven't had enough of this yet?" "It was good," Logano added. "NASCAR had us sit down and talk it out a little bit and I thought that was good for us to do." Friday's practice session marked the first time that Kenseth and Logano shared the same race track since their Nov. 1 altercation at Martinsville Speedway . During that event, a laps-down Kenseth intentionally wrecked race leader Logano in the late stages, a run-in that ended his three-race win streak and dealt a serious blow to Logano's bid for his first premier-series championship. Logano was eliminated from title contention two weeks later at Phoenix International Raceway . Kenseth was unapologetic for his actions during a phone interview with the Associated Press last weekend, saying he couldn't recall a heightened rivalry in the sport where NASCAR officials did not intervene before it reached a tipping point. NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France touched on the topic during Friday's State of the Sport address, just four days after meeting with Kenseth and car owner Joe Gibbs at the team's Huntersville, North Carolina, race shop. "What we were coming down here to a championship weekend, and I wanted to make sure that that matter was behind us with Matt , with Joe Gibbs and so on," France said. "I'm assured that it is. We had a good conversation about what had happened and what the thinking was or whatever you want to call Matt's actions, and we talked about that. And it was a good conversation." Gibbs, speaking Thursday during media availabilities ahead of Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), said that he also found the conversations productive. "I think going forward, we had good meetings," Gibbs said. "I think we're all in a good place right now. I think Matt is, too, and I appreciated getting a chance to meet with Brian, and I think Matt did, too, and I think we're going to put all that behind us, and we're going to go racing."
MORE: Official release on decision " Kenseth suspended for two races CONCORD, N.C. -- Matt Kenseth 's suspension from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition was upheld Thursday after a final appeal. The original probation period given was amended from six months to now through Dec. 31, 2015. The ruling issued by National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss at the NASCAR Research & Development Center will keep Kenseth out of the next two races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, at Texas this weekend and Phoenix the next. Moss' decision comes after a three-member panel upheld Kenseth's behavioral penalties -- stemming from his on-track fracas with rival Joey Logano last weekend at Martinsville Speedway -- during Thursday's initial appeals hearing. Moss' ruling is final. The burden of proof rested with Kenseth for the final appeal. In the first hearing, the burden of proof was NASCAR's responsibility. Earlier Thursday, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled that Kenseth did not provide sufficient evidence to overturn his suspension or six-month probation for the on-track incident. The rotating three-member panel for the initial hearing was composed of Ken Clapp, NASCAR's vice president of marketing development until his retirement in 1999; Bill Mullis, a former driver and the owner of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.; and Dale Pinilis, longtime operator of historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. The final appeal was only the third hearing overseen by Moss, a former Gulfstream Aerospace executive who joined the NASCAR appeals process last year. Moss also heard the final appeal for behavioral penalties against driver Kurt Busch in February, and the last appeal for technical penalties against Richard Childress Racing 's No. 31 team in May. Moss upheld the decision of the three-member panel in both instances. Kenseth offered a smile as he arrived at the R&D Center on Thursday morning at approximately 8:10 a.m. ET, followed minutes later by team owner Joe Gibbs for the 9 a.m. hearing. RELATED: France explains reasoning behind penalty On Tuesday, NASCAR suspended Kenseth for the next two races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs for his role in a crash with Logano in the late stages of Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway . Kenseth was also placed on probation for six months. Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, several laps down, made heavy contact with Logano's race-leading Team Penske No. 22 Ford, sending both cars into the Turn 1 wall. NASCAR competition officials parked Kenseth for the remainder of the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 . Kenseth , Gibbs and No. 20 crew chief Jason Ratcliff were each summoned to the NASCAR officials' hauler for post-race consultation. Kenseth was eliminated from championship eligibility during the three-race Contender Round in large part because of an on-track run-in with Logano at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 18. Contact from Logano nudged race leader Kenseth into a late-race spin, ending his bid for an automatic berth in the Chase's next round. WHAT TRANSPIRED: Kansas " Martinsville Kenseth expressed frustration at Logano's unapologetic stance after the incident, saying he "should have stopped running his mouth, A, and No. 2, he's lying when he said he didn't do it on purpose." Kenseth's irritation mounted in the two races that followed -- at Talladega, when Logano hindered his entry to pit road during a mid-race stop; and at Martinsville as Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski orchestrated their maneuvers in a series of mid-race restarts. The Penske drivers' arrangement on restarts was partially to blame for a crash with 65 laps remaining, bottling up the front-runners and snaring Kenseth , Keselowski and Kurt Busch with the most damage. Kenseth's No. 20 returned to the track after repairs, running at reduced pace before his wreck with Logano at the front of the field. Joe Gibbs Racing released a statement shortly after Tuesday's penalty was issued, saying Kenseth would appeal the severity of the punishment.
RELATED: Logano speaks about Kenseth penalty FORT WORTH, Texas – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers arrived at Texas Motor Speedway Friday still grappling with the fallout from last weekend's crash involving Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano , two of this season's most successful competitors. Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), was suspended for two races for crashing into Logano ( Team Penske ) with less than 50 laps remaining in Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway . Logano was the race leader at the time of the crash; Kenseth was nine laps down. Logano, who swept all three races in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , was going for a fourth consecutive victory. Kenseth had been eliminated from Chase contention the previous weekend. "I guess the implications aren't really clear on how things work and what kind of trouble you can get yourself into," fellow Chase competitor Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) said Friday at Texas. "Racing is racing. Guys have wrecked each other since racing started, OK? That's not going to change. Guys get mad all the time. "I think people will go about it differently now because of what happened this week, for sure. How far that goes, I'm not real sure. We'll have to wait and see." Logano leads the series in wins this season with six; Kenseth has five victories. The Martinsville incident dropped Logano to last among the eight drivers trying to qualify for the four who will compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway later this month. To earn a Championship Round spot for the second consecutive year, Logano will likely have to win either this weekend's AAA Texas 500 or next week's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . Logano said he didn't know if NASCAR's actions could change how some drivers react in certain situations, but added that it likely won't alter his own. "Probably not," the 25-year-old said. "Does it change the way other people would handle a situation? I can't answer that. I don't know. "I think we all did learn what NASCAR's stance is on this and that is something we will all put in our memory bank and know that going into the future." MORE: Kenseth's two-race suspension upheld Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon , winner of the Martinsville race and for now the only driver qualified to compete for the Championship 4, said he understood the reasoning behind the severity of the penalty. "NASCAR wanted there to be a line and I like it when they draw a line," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "... We don't like judgment calls. We like things to be clear. And I think we're all pretty clear now. "Yeah, it's gotten the people talking. It's gotten the media talking and the fans talking and it's created only more build-up to what's already a very exciting Chase format and close to the season. I don't want to say I look at it as a positive, I just think that it does bring more eyes to the sport and then they can choose and decide how they go from there." Kenseth will return to the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the season-finale at Homestead. In his absence, Erik Jones will handle the driving duties for the team. Jones will start sixth in Sunday's race. Carl Edwards , who joined JGR prior to the start of the 2015 season, said he'd spoken to Kenseth briefly. That his teammate was suspended, he said, "was a shock." "I think everyone will be on pretty decent behavior because of that," Edwards said. "If that's how it's going to be, we definitely have to be careful."
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth sent the following tweet after the AAA Texas 500 ended on Sunday. Good work @JimmieJohnson ! Textbook pass for the win at the end of the race when someone is trying to take your lane. #quintessential — Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 8, 2015
RELATED: Panel upholds Kenseth suspension The National Motorsports Appeals Panel today heard and considered the appeal of a Behavioral Penalty issued on Nov. 3 to Matt Kenseth (driver) relative to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicle No. 20 at Martinsville Speedway . The penalty concerns the following sections in the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 12.1 and 12.8. The original penalty assessed included suspension from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months following the issuance of the Penalty Notice. Upon hearing the testimony, the decisions of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel are: 1. The Appellant violated the rules set forth in the Penalty notice; 2. The Panel affirms and upholds the original Penalty levied by NASCAR. The panel consisted of the following three individuals: Mr. Ken Clapp Mr. Bill Mullis Mr. Dale Pinilis The Appellant has chosen to appeal the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with Section 15 of the NASCAR Rule Book. The appeal will begin at 1 p.m. ET.
RELATED: Kenseth's suspension upheld Today the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, Mr. Bryan Moss, heard and considered the appeal of a Behavioral Penalty issued on Nov. 3, 2015 to Matt Kenseth (driver) relative to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicle #20 at Martinsville Speedway . The penalty concerns the following sections in the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book: Sections 12.1 and 12.8. The original penalty assessed included suspension from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months following the issuance of the Penalty Notice. Earlier today, a three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel heard the appeal and made the following decisions: 1. The Appellant violated the rules set forth in the Penalty notice; 2. The Panel affirms and upholds the original Penalty levied by NASCAR. Upon hearing this afternoon’s testimony, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer made the following decisions: 1. The Appellant violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice; 2. The Penalty is amended to: "Suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Events. Placed on NASCAR probation through December 31, 2015." The decision of the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer is final and binding on all parties.
NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth met Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, in advance of the driver's return to the track following a two-race suspension. France was "pleased" with the dialogue, according to a tweet from NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes. NASCAR's Brian France met with Matt Kenseth today in CLT. Brian was pleased with the dialogue. Now all focus is on Ford Championship Weekend — Brett Jewkes (@BJewkes) November 16, 2015 Kenseth was suspended for the past two races following his role in an on-track incident with Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway . He will return to the No. 20 Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford EcoBoost 400 . "NASCAR has asked the driver of the 20 to meet with Chairman and CEO Brian France," NASCAR Vice President David Higdon confirmed earlier Monday, and the two got together shortly thereafter. Kenseth tweeted later Monday afternoon, noting that he's "glad to have all this behind (him)." Glad to have all this behind me. I'm looking forward to homestead! #team20 #jgr — Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 16, 2015 France and NASCAR handed down the suspension, which was upheld on appeals, following Kenseth's wreck of race leader Joey Logano in the Eliminator Round opener. The two had previous on-track run-ins, and Kenseth -- nearly 10 laps down at the time -- drove Logano into the wall with less than 50 laps remaining. Logano was eliminated from the postseason following Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway . Kenseth had been eliminated the week before Martinsville. In addition to his suspension, Kenseth is on probation for the rest of 2015.
Matt Kenseth : "Really, I just want to. … I appreciate them having the process and going here, didn't turn out like we wanted. Obviously, I'm more than a little disappointed with the decision and the penalties to start with. A couple of facts, which I'm sure you guys will find -- I'm the first driver in the 65-year history of NASCAR to get suspended for an incident that happened in the Sprint Cup Series race, so I feel like I was unfairly made the example instead of knowing where the line is, what the penalties are. Like I said, I'm extremely disappointed but we'll get through this. Look forward to going to Homestead. I'm not going to change who I am. I'm not going to change what I stand for. I'm not going to change how I race. I've been in this business for a long time. I feel like I've had a pretty good career to this point, and I feel like I'm going to continue to have the respect on the race track that I feel like I deserve. So I'm looking forward to going to Homestead, hopefully going there and getting a win before the year is out." Joe Gibbs Racing team owner Joe Gibbs: "I think all of us right now are just so disappointed. I just wanted to say, that guy right there has spent 20 years in this sport. He had one other minor infraction, I think it was a $5,000 fine. He has spent 20 years of his life racing in this sport and he's been great for NASCAR. Our reason for appealing is we felt like this penalty was kind of unprecedented and it was inconsistent with a number of other on-track incidents. One of those is exactly like this one, and yet this penalty against Matt is an unprecedented one. I appreciate getting the chance to go through this process. I think we've done all we can do, and we're going to go back to racing."
Matt Kenseth and team owner Joe Gibbs react to the decision by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel and the Final Appeals Officer to uphold Kenseth's two-race suspension.