There has been no shortage of electrifying drama between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. Throughout their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series careers, the two have had multiple encounters that have led to conflict on and off the race track.
The recent pit-road scuffle at Martinsville Speedway was just another example of the persistent tension between the drivers and their teams. However, the notable issues between the championship-contending pair predate this season’s rivalry and go back to the 2013 season where a series of exchanges led to more serious consequences — particularly for Hamlin.
As both have voiced strong opinions in recent interviews, the tension between the two clearly remains — and with each finding themselves dangerously close to the cutline, the high-pressured Round of 8 finale at ISM Raceway in Phoenix may provide another chapter to the story.
Hamlin’s early spin at Texas led to a massive 44-point swing in the standings, putting his title hopes in jeopardy. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver now sits 20 points below the cutline, trailing rival Logano for the final spot in the Championship 4.
In the five races at Phoenix since stage points became a factor, only once has Hamlin finished with enough points to pass Logano as the standings currently sit — that finish came in last year’s showdown when Logano crashed resulting in a 37th place finish for the Team Penske driver.
Over that same span, Hamlin has a trio of top 10 finishes to his name while Logano only has one. Hamlin also has a higher career average finish (11.3 to Logano’s 15.2) and plenty more top-five finishes at the track (12 to Logano’s four).
In spite of the career Phoenix numbers favoring Hamlin, history has more often than not favored the driver in Logano’s position heading into the last race before the season finale. In five years under the current NASCAR Playoffs format, only once has a driver entered the elimination race in the Round of 8 outside of the top four and made it to Miami (Kevin Harvick, 2014).
As the pressure mounts for Hamlin and Logano to keep their season alive, the matchup between the two in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in the Arizona desert will surely be one to watch.
Source: Racing Insights