Dust-up between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin overshadows IRL’s season debut
Crew members fight after Joey Logano had an altercation with Denny Hamlin after the NASCAR Food City 500 on Sunday. (GETTY IMAGES)
It’s six days until the opening of the IZOD IndyCar season and the motorsports media, social and unsocial, is full of news about the dust-up at Bristol Motor Speedway between former Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
It’s he kind of bad luck that too often happens to open wheel racing on this side of the oceans.
And poor Kasey Kahne, pulls off a fantastic pass of reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and he, too, gets second billing to the two combatants.
Just to review the proceedings at the half-mile oval in Bristol, Tenn., Logano and Hamlin were fighting for second place on Lap 349 of the 500-lap race when Logano came down the track to protect his line from a charging Hamlin.
Hamlin tapped Logano’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford just enough to send it spinning into the wall.
Logano spent the remainder of the race trying to get back to Hamlin’s No. 11 JGR Toyota and finally succeeded on the final restart.
He drove into the back of Hamlin sending the No. 11 into the back of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, ruining his chance to challenge Kahne for the lead.
At the conclusion of the race Logano ran over to Hamlin’s car and began a shouting match that turned into a shoving match between crews of the two teams.
Make no mistake Logano was furious — this was no NHL-like staged scrap.
“We had a fast race car, that’s for sure,” Logano said. “I was racing for the lead and it’s frustrating. That’s a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car — probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now.
“He decided to run in the back of me, so, whatever. I have a scorecard and I’m not putting up with that.”
The genius tag was in reference an incident at the Daytona 500 where Hamlin said Logano had blocked him from helping Keselowski in the late stages of that event. In a tweet to Keselowski, Hamlin sarcastically called Logano a “genius teammate.”
Logano in a tweet after Sunday’s race blasted Hamlin for not taking his helmet off when confronted in the car.
“Hey @dennyhamlin great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on.”
Of course, now Logano pledges he will repay Hamlin at some future date for what happened at Bristol.
And you can bet all eyes will be on them both at Auto Club Speedway this week and especially at Martinsville a week after that.
“If we didn’t (have issues), we do now,” Logano said. “Send that message. Tweet that.”
As for Hamlin, he didn’t seem too concerned about Logano’s threat.
“He said he was coming for me,” Hamlin said when asked what Logano had yelled at him after the race. “I usually don’t see him, so it’s usually not a factor.”
Hamlin also said he didn’t intentionally turn Logano into the wall, it was just an accident.
“He pinched us up against the wall twice and really had I not checked up he would have been in the garage anyway with no radiator in it,” Hamlin said of the incident. “It’s just one of those things. It’s Bristol racing and everyone is fighting for the top and I think he knew he had to get to the top as soon as he could, but I was up there. I meant to hit him — (but) I didn’t mean to wreck him. Still, we both had a bad day.”
The point to all of this is Hamlin and Logano will be the fodder for all kinds of media over the next few races, guaranteeing that NASCAR Sprint Cup fans will have lots to talk about over coffee or and adult beverage.
And while IndyCar fans can, and ruefully do, look down their noses at such shenanigans, the series might not find itself in such a morass if there was a little more passion in that series too.
Logano’s helmet comment reminded me of Paul Tracy’s quip about his tussles with Alex Tagliani and Sebastien Bourdais in the old Champ Car series.
Tracy spun that tale out for a whole season.
It seems in today’s IndyCar series all the drivers are pals, nary a harsh word amongst them.
And that ladies and gentlemen is why NASCAR continues to be the 600-pound gorilla in North American motorsports.
KESELOWSKI GRABS LEAD
With his third-place finish in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday Brad Keselowski takes over the Sprint Cup points lead from Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson blew a tire and hit the wall late in the race, finishing 22nd and dropping to third in the standings with 151 points, 15 behind Keselowski.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. jumped to second with 157 points with his sixth-place result.
After four races it looks as though Keselowski is on a path to repeat his championship run of 2012.
“Obviously, we’re off to my best start ever and that’s really cool,” he said. “I’m happy for my team and all that stuff.
“(But) we can’t keep our feet still. We know guys like Kyle (Busch) and Jimmie and those guys are going to continue to push and make their cars better and we’ve got to keep digging and push on our stuff, too.”
And unlike some of his Cup competitors, Keselowski likes the way the new Generation 6 cars looks and races this season.
“They don’t look the same to me, they look different to me,” he said. “That other car was butt ugly. This one looks a little better to me.
“Obviously, there are some different things in them with rear-end housings and little different suspension stuff, so the cars are definitely different. We wouldn’t be setting new track records if they weren’t.
“They obviously drive a little different, too, because of that stuff ... but they’re definitely a different challenge and hopefully an upgrade for the future.”