Feud over? Depends on which driver you ask
March 22, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
FONTANA, Calif. -- Denny Hamlin says the feud is over. Joey Logano says it isn’t. The only certainty is that the strained relations between the two former teammates continue into this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
Five days after their altercation following last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, it’s clear Hamlin and Logano still have very different ideas of where things stand between them. Contact between the two on the Tennessee short track left Logano spinning into the wall, and then lunging toward the cockpit of the No. 11 car after the event had concluded. The drivers were separated by crewmen, but later on continued to take shots at one another through the media.
There were no such outbursts Friday in Southern California, where the former Joe Gibbs Racing stable mates both showed off strong cars that qualified toward the front of the field for Sunday’s event. They haven’t talked since last weekend. And it’s clear they view the current status of their relationship quite differently.
"As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to it from here on out."
-- Denny Hamlin
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to it from here on out,” Hamlin said after his pole-winning run on the 2-mile track. That didn’t exactly mesh with how Logano saw the situation after qualifying sixth.
“Not until anyone says anything personally to me, no,” said the Penske Racing driver, who moved over from JGR during the offseason. Hamlin did admit, he perhaps shouldn’t have tossed in the barb that closed his comments last weekend, where he quipped that he wasn’t worried about retaliation from Logano because he didn’t see him very often on the race track.
“I probably shouldn’t have given that last little jab at the end,” Hamlin said. “I probably should have just left it alone after the question was asked about what he said. But that’s the only part. As a driver, it’s not up to me to determine where he stands among the elite in NASCAR. I think it’s the fans and the teams who decide that. But I didn’t need to give my opinion on that. I think it’s a low blow.”
Hamlin also reiterated that he bumped Logano intentionally, unhappy about how the Penske driver had raced him earlier in the event. But “I shouldn’t have nudged him in the spot I did,” he said, given that the contact ultimately spun Logano into the wall and left the No. 22 car with rear-end damage.
Still, “I didn’t see it as a huge deal,” Hamlin said. “People at Bristol make contact.”
Logano had a car that seemed capable of contending for the race win, and he’s now competing as a teammate to champion Brad Keselowski. Matt Kenseth, who won two weeks ago at Las Vegas, replaced him at Gibbs. Hamlin surmised all of that played into Logano’s reaction.
“I think a little bit of a factor is -- it’s hard for me to speak for him, I’m guessing -- he’s got a lot to prove over there,” he said. “Obviously, Matt’s really running well over here. (Logano) had a great race going with a shot to win, and he got taken out. I think that raised his level of frustration.”
Clearly, given the terse answers Logano gave on the subject Friday. Is the dispute behind them? “I haven’t gotten a call or spoken to him,” Logano said. How will he race Hamlin in the future? “The way he raced me,” he added.
Although Hamlin and Logano always seemed to get along when both were at Gibbs, they had their issues on the race track. They just weren’t public -- unlike last Sunday’s. “I think I had just as much disappointment in him on the race track as teammates as he had in me,” Hamlin said. Even so, he said he’s not concerned about any recrimination from Logano, even on the short track at Martinsville in two weeks.
“I’m pretty comfortable with how we are and the way we act as professional race car drivers,” he said. “This stuff is always hot and heavy for a couple of weeks, and it goes away. … You’re going to be around the person. We live in the same neighborhood every weekend. You just can’t avoid someone forever, and eventually we’ll talk it out.”
In the meantime, though, Logano is still stewing. “It gives you a little bit of drive. It pisses you off. That’s good. It makes everyone work a little harder,” he said of the frustration of last weekend. And given that he seems to have another strong car in Fontana, it makes him also want to finish the job.
“I’m always looking at a silver lining,” Logano said. “… I’ve had two really, really fast cars. I feel like I have a really fast car here at Auto Club Speedway. I’m looking to make the most out of what I’ve got. That’s where we’ve failed this year, is not getting the finishes we deserve. My goal is to make it happen and get this car into Victory Lane.”
Meanwhile, other drivers have sat back and enjoyed the spectacle of it all, happy to be out of the spotlight themselves.
“I'm so proud of Denny and Joey. They did such a good job,” said Clint Bowyer, who was involved in a tiff of his own with Jeff Gordon late last season at Phoenix. “It was great. It's just good to see that. Emotions are high at a short track, and things happen, and (it’s) no different than what happened at Phoenix. It's entertainment. It's fun to see people get pissed off.”
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