MARTINSVILLE, Va. — A half-a-minute post-race discussion between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano was civilized, at least for the first 29 seconds. But it was the last-second ending that touched off the latest chapter in their off-and-on rivalry Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The two drivers had a pointed but relatively calm talk after Sunday’s First Data 500, attempting to sort out the late-race contact that caused a tire rub and eventually a spin for Logano’s Team Penske No. 22 Ford. The difference of opinion seemed to reach a stalemate until Logano added a chat-ending smack to Hamlin’s right shoulder.
Hamlin took exception, lunging toward the retreating Logano as crewmembers interceded. Both expressed their intent to fight it out before cooling off.
“I was frustrated about the situation obviously,” said Logano, who rallied from 19th to eighth in the final 35 laps. “I just really wanted to go over there to talk to him and get his side of the story on what happened, and he just said ‘I ran you up in the wall’ basically. It wasn’t as apologetic as I was looking for, and that probably escalated the situation too much. I shouldn’t have shoved him. For all the kids watching, that wasn’t the best thing to do. But I was frustrated, tempers were high and it’s the playoffs, so that’s what happens.”
LOGANO: Where’s the apology?
Hamlin said he was fine with the two drivers’ discussion until the end.
“It was a discussion. I understand him coming over and talking,” said Hamlin, who started from the pole and settled for fourth. “Standing there and having a discussion with him, everything was fine and I think he didn’t get me agitated enough, so he said something and then pokes a little bit and then runs away, trying to get me to come so he could hide behind his guys. He’s just not that tough. He won’t stand face to face, and that’s just his style.”
HAMLIN: ‘He ran away’
Hamlin and Logano were battling in close quarters among the top five when Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota drifted up into the side of Logano’s No. 22, squeezing him into the outside wall off Turn 4. Two laps later, Logano spun as his tire gave way, prompting a caution period with 40 laps left. That left Logano as the last driver on the lead lap before his comeback salvaged a top 10.
Sunday’s post-race scuffle was another episode for Logano and Hamlin, who most recently called Logano “an idiot” for racing hard multiple laps down earlier this month at Dover — although he later walked those comments back. The two also clashed early in the 2013 season, with a post-race skirmish at Bristol Motor Speedway and last-lap contact at Auto Club Speedway that forced Hamlin to miss four races with a compression fracture in his back.
The latest incident — and their words afterward — underscored that their simmering issues remained.
“Denny’s Denny, you know. He’s a little bit arrogant sometimes,” Logano said. “I should be stronger than let that get underneath me when he does that.”
Added Hamlin: “I told him that it was my fault. I came up the race track and made contact, but obviously the end part is his fault. We can have a discussion with him over two or three times about him blocking me and what is he doing at Dover, this, that and the other. That’s a discussion that men have, but he handles it differently because he’s immature.”