It’s October at Martinsville Speedway, so you know what that means. Drivers getting into it and tempers flarin’ so much that the race once sponsored by Hanes should be sponsored by Tucks or Preparation H at this point.
Things between Joey Logano and Hamlin escalated in the pits on Sunday night (Oct. 27) when the teams got involved, and all sorts of shenanigans and bleeped out expletives on TV soon followed. So who was right and who was wrong? This week, Mark Kristl and Vito Pugliese slap each other on the shoulder, tug on their fire suits and do impressions of each other afterwards in this installment of 2-Headed Monster.
Logano Stood up for Himself
When Hamlin and Logano made contact, Logano had a right to be angry. Logano is the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, and he is battling Hamlin for a trip to the Championship 4. He needed to stand up to Hamlin.
When asked after the race why he was angry with Hamlin, Logano was frank: “I was mad. I got fenced.”
There were 43 laps left to go in the race, and Hamlin slid up the racetrack. Regardless of his intent, Hamlin forced Logano into the wall. As a result, Logano cut a tire and spun his No. 22 Team Penske Ford, bringing out the caution.
Yes, the Cup Series was at Martinsville, but that wasn’t a case of rubbin’s racin’. That was a case where Hamlin made a mistake, and it cost his competitor and fellow playoff driver Logano, who understandably was furious.
Hamlin arguably is the one of the best drivers at Martinsville. After all, he has five wins there. He has not denied the fact he excels at the track. Yet Logano is no slouch at Martinsville Speedway either — he won this race last season in a memorable finish. So Logano could have felt disrespected in that instance.
Both drivers are battling for a berth to the Championship 4, so both drivers are racing hard. Yet when Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick had their scuffle in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Reddick noted both drivers have more to lose by wrecking each other.
The same principle is applicable to Logano and Hamlin. Although half of the playoff drivers will be eliminated at the end of this round, does Hamlin want to end up worrying about his playoff chances by starting a feud with Logano? Both drivers need to be more aware of what is at stake.
In the case of Hamlin, if he felt apologetic for the incident, he could have told his spotter to apologize to the No. 22 team. Even if Hamlin faked his sincerity, he at least would have shown respect to his fellow playoff driver. It was his fault. He could have even asked his spotter to make his apology sound legitimate. The two spotters then could have talked and the information could have been relayed to Logano. Logano likely then would have stayed upset but the scuffle probably would not have occurred.
Instead, Hamlin continued racing, finishing four spots ahead of Logano and earning three more points. Those three points could very well make the difference on which driver advances to the Championship 4.
After the scuffle, Logano regained his composure and Hamlin mocked Logano. While the fans may have enjoyed Hamlin mocking Logano, he lacked any class whatsoever by doing so.
Logano took time to cool off, and he regretted shoving Hamlin, even admitting it was unprofessional. The Cup Series is the highest level of NASCAR — aren’t these drivers supposed to be professional? Or if they make a mistake, own up to it?
No, Hamlin mocked Logano which could escalate the feud. Both drivers are above the Championship 4, and if Logano wins the next race, he automatically will advance. But if in the process Hamlin continues to race him overly hard, Hamlin will not be in an ideal situation.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Does Hamlin want Logano to seek revenge on the track and potentially cost him a shot at his first Cup Series championship?
Make no mistake about it, Logano lost his cool and he admitted it that day. He was angry. Wouldn’t you be? He did not encourage his Team Penske crew member to throw Hamlin to the ground.
But let’s face it, Hamlin was not completely innocent in that situation. He deserves blame. After all, sounding like an elementary school student, he started it.
If the roles were reversed, Hamlin likely would be angry, too. This season, he has enjoyed a career-best year. In that moment though, he failed to be cognizant of the situation and it led to a scuffle and possibly a feud. – Mark Kristl
Irrational Response for Incidental Contact
Sunday’s post-race dust up between Hamlin and Logano was yet another chapter in the perpetual feud between the Penske duo of Joey and Brad Keselowski versus various Joe Gibbs Racing members. The Logano and Hamlin installment at Martinsville on Sunday carried over into the pits after Hamlin squeezed Logano into the wall while battling for position. Logano was complaining that Hamlin didn’t give him much room, while Hamlin agreed, saying he was trying to squeeze him but not run into him.
From the view down the straightaway, it looked like Logano’s car climbed the wall once the right side tires made contact with it. After Logano said his piece, he left Hamlin with a firm slap on the shoulder. It reminded me of an incident at Ford Field when then-San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh slapped then-Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz on the back a big too aggressively following the post-game handshake. Schwartz took umbrage to it and went after Harbaugh to express his displeasure with the diss, then the players from both teams got involved.
Likewise, Hamlin went back to confront Logano for the aggressive/passive action. That is when the teams got involved, and things escalated to the point of it becoming yet another eye-roller of a “fight” involving Logano. I thought it was a bit ironic that a year after the No. 22 driver plowed into Martin Truex Jr. after the pseudo-JGR driver gave him plenty of room and raced respectively for 10 laps suddenly had to get frat-boy aggro on pit road afterwards, including his tire specialist who horse-collared Hamlin and threw him to the ground.
I have issues with this for a number of reasons. The least of which, two guys jawing with each other doesn’t need to devolve into former Division-II football players and fat dudes involving themselves with a pair of dehydrated drivers who are having a discussion – particularly when the one who escalated it then fades into the background while his boys handle business.
It’s a bad look and one that continues to perpetuate itself. Not trying to pile on Logano, but after awhile, the have-to-be-a-tough-guy thing wears a bit thin. Yeah, the fans cheer, and it gives NASCAR some footage fodder to push the next playoff race and what might happen next, but it all just seems silly. Hamlin’s response and interview afterwards summed it up succinctly, like a guy having to apologize for his drunk buddy’s behavior at the bar. “That’s just Joey ….,” followed by a pretty solid impression.
Given that Hamlin has come out on the short end of their on-track confrontations a couple of times – one of which sidelined him for a couple of months with a broken vertebrae after the last lap at Auto Club Speedway in 2013 – he has every right to challenge an incident that was a classic example of running out of room on a short track. What doesn’t wash well is the other guy’s team having to jump in and subdue him for coming over and continuing the discussion. What if Hamlin had bounced his head off the concrete after that? Then he gets a concussion and has to sit out a race or two. Why should an incidental contact on the track bring that kind of response in the pits?
Oh and by the way, Logano still finished in the top 10 – it wasn’t like he mashed it into the wall and it came back on a flatbed.
The whole thing of crewmen getting involved and driver fights, contrary to popular belief, isn’t as “old school” as some would have you believe. Having watched this sport since I was five years old, the only times I recall seeing crews come to blows were at the 1989 Winston when Rusty Wallace spun Darrell Waltrip coming out of turn 4 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and when the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team stomped on Ricky Rudd’s car at Richmond Raceway in 2003. And even those were pretty short-lived and the drivers never actually did anything to each other besides trade barbs.
Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough in turn 3 in the Daytona 500 in 1979 is one thing, but I don’t remember seeing Maurice Petty bulldog David Pearson in 1976 either.
Hamlin has it rolling this season, and the one team he needs to worry about is in his own race shop. Logano seems to be stuck reliving his conflicts from seven or eight seasons ago, still trying to gain respect and show he’s not going to be pushed around. I don’t think Hamlin owed Logano much of an apology after the race, and he surely doesn’t need to offer one now. – Vito Pugliese