With the Sprint Cup Series back in action this weekend at Martinsville, so then has the next stage in the feud between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
Logano in an interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith, said that he’s not going to get walked on any more (by any driver), and while that he had intention (or knowledge) that Hamlin had been injured immediately after the accident and resulting fracas on pit road with Tony Stewart, he declared it as unintentional and simply the product of hard, last lap racing.
Hamlin, vertical once again and back in North Carolina spoke with Nate Ryan of the USA Today and offered his assessment of while not be malicious – was most definitely intentional.
“How is it not intentional? It’s not like he got loose because I took air off him,” Hamlin said. “I saw him getting closer, and I moved up the track. He was just going to keep going until he ran into us. Whatever happened after that, I’m sure he didn’t mean to wreck or get me hurt, but he meant to run into us, there’s no doubt. He didn’t get loose with the back (of the car). He drove into us with the front. That’s a guy seeing I was going to get the better of him that week. He wasn’t going to let that happen. He hit the gas until he hit something.”
What has been missing from the war of words between Logano and Hamlin the last few weeks has been humility. Hamlin before the race at Fontana did say in an interview with Claire B. Lang on Sirius NASCAR Network that he had would have rather he had not gotten the “I don’t usually see him”, and felt that things would work themselves out. What also has been missing from the discussion is Hamlin’s physical status. Although he his mobile, he does have to wear a back brace, has trouble breathing, and was in substantial pain the first few days after the accident.
You can dumb it down by calling it a fractured vertebrae, but as “The Onion”:http://www.theonion.com/articles/denny-hamlins-spine-bone-done-busted,31829/ – the satirical news site – deemed it in their Sports headline, it was indeed “busted spine bone.”
Hamlin’s injury has him up and walking around, but had the injury occurred in an inch or so over, he’d be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. Having just had a daughter two months ago, coupled with the pain of having to rehab a spinal injury, the impact to his season and career, the indifference implied by Logano has made it a more bitter pill to swallow.
Subbing this weekend for Hamlin will be Mark Martin, who has won twice at the track that bears his name (kind of), in 1992 and 2000. Thursday evening the announcement was made by JGR that Martin would be in the No. 11 car for the duration of Hamlin’s recovery, but by Friday afternoon, that plan fell apart as it was reported that sponsor Aaron’s had nixed the idea, as even though Martin may not be planning to be in the car for 2014, he is the driver that they wish to have in the seat for the foreseeable future.
For Martin, his week off means heading to a track where after one particular rough weekend in practice remarked if he won, he’d run through the grandstands in his underwear. It also is a bit of an oxymoron between Martin and Martinsville – one known for his new brutal workout routines engineered for him by The Strength Guys, the other known for angina-inducing pink hot dogs shoveled down like Joey Chestnut.
If you’re a fan of the man in the 55, all is not lost however. In spring of 2010, Martin posted a Top 10 finish in the No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet he was driving at the time. Prior to that in the fall of 2010, he finished second, nearly catching Denny Hamlin of all people by the finish. Martin was involved in an incident on the frontstretch that saw the rear of the car elevated a few inches after it backed into the wall. Whether or not it was a function of downforce or anger, Martin drove up through the field in the final 97 laps of green flag racing after making up his lap, and got within a couple of car lengths of Hamlin by the finish. Martin also has a history of bringing a spark to whatever car and team he works with for the first time no matter who they are or in what series – it’d be hard to find a better super sub in sport.
It’s probably for the best as well, as Martin is not exactly the biggest fan of the racing at Talladega, which over the years has seen him experience the heights of success (winning the fastest ever 500 mile NASCAR race in 1997) hurtling towards the infield, impaling his car into a guard rail and flimsy chain linked fence (1994), and championship-killing season wrecks (2002 and 2005). Or as his wife Arlene put it in a tweet to ESPN’s David Newton when he quipped to her getting a bonus trip to Talladega in the Spring, “Hell will freeze over.”