Denny Hamlin-Joey Logano feud still isn’t finished
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Denny Hamlin is ready for his feud with Joey Logano to be finished after the NASCAR drivers nearly came to blows last week at Bristol.
Logano isn’t quite so sure it’s over, because he’s still waiting for an apology.
The former teammates haven’t spoken since their collision on the track carried into a post-race confrontation in Tennessee. Hamlin won the pole and Logano finished sixth in qualifying at Fontana on Friday, suggesting they could be close to each other again this weekend.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to it from here on out,” Hamlin said.
But even Hamlin knows it isn’t that simple.
When asked if he considered the feud finished, Logano replied: “Not until anyone says anything to me personally, no.”
While Kasey Kahne won the race, Logano and Hamlin captured much of the attention at the Bristol bullring. After Hamlin spun Logano while Logano raced Jeff Gordon for a late lead, Logano ran over to Hamlin’s car and leaned in the window for a few words after the race, sparking a brief confrontation between their teams.
Hamlin said he was just responding to Logano’s dangerous driving by making contact that spun him, claiming Logano had cut him off three times earlier. Hamlin then ripped Logano’s driving abilities, making remarks Hamlin now regrets.
“I probably shouldn’t have gave that last little jab at the end,” Hamlin said. “I probably should have just left it alone. ... As a driver, it’s not up to me to determine where he stands amongst the elite of NASCAR. I think the fans and the teams decide that. I didn’t need to give my opinion on that. I think that was kind of a low blow.”
The drivers are embroiled in a classic Bristol feud, with hot tempers frequently flaring in the track’s cramped conditions. Emotions might cool down with the longer track and cooler heads in California, but they’re not there yet.
Although he regrets costing Logano his chance to win, Hamlin said he’s not the villain.
“I didn’t see it as a huge deal,” Hamlin said. “People at Bristol make contact. Where my frustration level was, people didn’t see the three times I got cut off before you saw it on TV, one time giving us left front damage. So that ticked me off, and obviously my way of retaliating was to nudge him. Well, I shouldn’t have nudged him in the spot where I did, and he spun out.”
Logano was more circumspect about the incident, first expressing disbelief when told Hamlin was sorry — and then laughing when he heard Hamlin is only sorry for ripping him, not for wrecking him.
“So then he’s not sorry. OK, all right. OK. OK, whatever,” Logano said with another laugh.
“It is frustrating, but I’m always looking at the silver lining,” Logano added. “I’ve had two really fast cars in a row. I’ve got another good car here, and I’m looking to make the most of what I’ve got. That’s where we’ve failed this year, is not getting the finishes we deserve where we’ve been running throughout these races.”
Hamlin and Logano were teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, and though Hamlin says they were “definitely fine” in Monday meetings and strategy sessions, it clearly wasn’t always a harmonious partnership, particularly on the track.
“Like anything else, we had our on-track stuff that never really was public, but we had times where it was like, ‘Hey, why did you race me that way?’” Hamlin said.
Logano moved to Penske Racing after he was replaced by Matt Kenseth in JGR’s No. 20 race car for this season. Kenseth won two weeks ago at Las Vegas.
“This year, I think a little bit of a factor is — it’s hard for me to speak for him, I’m guessing — he feels like he’s got a lot to prove over there,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, Matt is running really well over here. (Logano) had a great race going with obviously a shot (at Bristol), a car that could win, and he got taken out. So I think that raised his level of frustration. If we were probably back in the pack, he would have probably been still mad at me, but probably not as much as what he was.”
While Hamlin went on at length about the relationship Friday, Logano repeatedly tried to focus on the upcoming race. He won the Nationwide Series race at Fontana last year for JGR.
Although Logano isn’t ready to forgive and forget, Hamlin isn’t worried about it — particularly after claiming another pole.
“I’m pretty comfortable with how we are and the way we act as professional race car drivers,” Hamlin said. “This stuff is always hot and heavy for a few weeks, and then it typically goes away.”