Denny Hamlin mocks ‘scared’ Joey Logano: ‘He’s just not that tough’

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Denny Hamlin has been in enough altercations with Joey Logano to develop an opinion on his NASCAR rival, and he bluntly stated it after their latest set-to Sunday night.

“He’s just not that tough,” Hamlin said of Logano. “And he won’t stand face to face. That’s just his style.”

After spinning from contact with Hamlin with 40 laps remaining, Logano approached Hamlin in the postrace pits. They civilly exchanged words for a minute before Logano gave Hamlin a shot in the right shoulder. Hamlin went after Logano but was stopped by No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon and PR representative Kyle Zimmerman as a scuffle erupted between their teams.

“I understand him coming over and talking, and I was standing there and having a discussion with him,” Hamlin told reporters in the postrace bullpen. “Everything was fine. I think he didn’t get me agitated enough. So he said something and then pokes a little bit and then runs away trying to get me to come (after him) so he could hide behind his guys.”

It’s the second time in the 2019 playoffs that Logano has angered Hamlin, who called the Team Penske driver “an idiot” after the Oct. 6 race at Dover International Speedway for racing hard while 24 laps down.

They openly feuded during the 2013 season (starting after the Daytona 500), including a similar scuffle between their teams after the March 17, 2013 race at Bristol Motor Speedway. A week later, Hamlin suffered a broken back while racing Logano for the lead on the last lap at Auto Club Speedway.

During an interview with NBCSN’s Parker Kligerman, Hamlin openly mocked Logano’s mannerisms in saying, “He probably would say, ‘Oh, short-track racing!'” and added, “So that’s Joey. Scared.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said short-track racing was the simple explanation for how they got together shortly after a Lap 456 restart in which Logano started on the outside lane in fourth with Hamlin in fifth on the next row in the inside lane.

After being squeezed into the wall, Logano picked up a tire rub on his No. 22 Ford. He spun without making contact and brought out a yellow that helped him make a pit stop and rally for eighth after dropping to 19th with 40 laps left.

“We got together, and he cut a tire, which is very unfortunate for him but was not malicious by any means, but it just happened,” said Hamlin, who finished fourth. “I got tight off the corner, we made contact. It was going to be nothing more than a rub, but it looked like he cut a tire there. That part was unfortunate. We’re in tight confines.

“There’s going to be contact here and there. (Brad Keselowski) was beating the shit out of my rear bumper all day long. Jacking me sideways. Cutting me off. It’s just part of this whole thing. You got to just understand. Logano’s got to understand that not everything goes his way.”

NASCAR officials met after the fracas with Team Penske competition director Travis Geisler, No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon and an unnamed Penske crew member who grabbed Hamlin. A spokesman said any penalties could be issued as early as Monday.

Said Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, who helped separate the drivers: “It’s just hard racing at Martinsville. Logano wanted to talk about it then he kind of walked away and took a cheap shot and Denny wasn’t good with that. We’re all good and we’ll go to Texas and race.”

Hamlin said he thought things with Logano were settled.

“I mean, we did talk,” Hamlin said. “Yeah, I told him that it was my fault. I came up the racetrack. We made contact obviously.

“But the end part is his fault. We can have (another) discussion. I had a discussion with him over two to three times about him blocking me and what is he doing at Dover and this that the other thing. That’s a discussion that men have, but he handles it differently because he’s immature.”

Kyle Busch dominates to Truck win at Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch extended his NASCAR Truck Series victory record to 57 in his hometown Friday night, leading 108 of 134 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion swept both stages and finished 5.958 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. Busch has won seven straight races in the series, including all five he entered last season.

Austin Hill was third, followed by defending series champion Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Grrant Enfinger, who opened the season with an overtime victory at Daytona, did not finish after an accident with 43 laps to go.

Christian Eckes was right behind Busch in the opening two stages, but he finished 23rd after an early final-stage wreck.

Results

Driver standings

Jimmie Johnson tops final Cup practice at Las Vegas

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Jimmie Johnson was the fastest driver in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Cup practice of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The seven-time Cup champion hasn’t won a race since 2017, but showed plenty of speed, pacing the 38 cars that took to the 1.5-mile track, clocking a best speed of 179.432 mph.

Johnson and his Chevrolet were followed by five Fords.

Clint Bowyer, who was second-fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, was once again second-fast in the final session at 179.271 mph.

Aric Almirola, who was fastest in the first practice, was third-fastest in the final session at 179.170 mph.

Rounding out the top-5 were Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (178.660 mph), who will be filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, followed by Kyle Larson (178.424), Ryan Blaney (178.359), John Hunter Nemechek (178.259) and Alex Bowman (178.089).

Final Cup practice results

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Next goals for Daytona winner Denny Hamlin: double-digit wins, Cup crown

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There was a time when Denny Hamlin’s best memories of the Daytona 500 were to just go home relatively unscathed.

Consider this: In Hamlin’s first six appearances in the Great American Race, his highest finish was 17th.

But after a breakthrough 4th-place finish in 2012, he has become the best overall performer in the 500 among active drivers.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I started studying more about superspeedway racing around that time because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time,” Hamlin said Friday during a media session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We went a long time and I’ve won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but not many like Talladega – I think I have one win there – but it just seems like it’s that seven or eight years ago that the car came around and whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car have seemed to work.”

In the last seven editions of the 500, Hamlin has finished 2nd (2014), 4th (2015), 1st (2016), 17th (2017), 3rd (2018), 1st (2019) and 1st again this past Monday.

Do the math and that’s three wins – making him only the sixth driver in NASCAR history to win the 500 three or more times – and seven overall top-5 finishes in the last nine season openers.

Hamlin knew that getting his second 500 win in a row – both outcomes being the closest finishes in the race’s 62-year history – and third in the last five years was basically going to come down to a battle between him, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

With emphasis on Newman, that is, before he was involved in that horrific last lap crash on the front stretch heading toward the checkered flag.

“I pulled the block on (Newman) coming to the white (flag) and I stayed in front and I knew he was going to back up to (Blaney),” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up myself, but once (Newman) was attached (to Blaney), I knew they were going to come with a run I could not stop.

“I just held my line because if I started going sideways, the next thing you know (Newman) starts moving sideways and (Blaney) is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.

“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know hey, pass this way, and when I did I was able to back to (Blaney) and was able to unattach him from (Newman). When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really tuck in right behind him. I don’t know if he checked up to keep us attached but once we got attached, I knew we were going to have a run back on (Newman).

“I knew he was going to get there, I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around (Blaney) at the (finish) line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to (Newman). I knew those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to be in the right place when it happened and I was.”

Not having any 500 wins of his own, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is envious of Hamlin’s three triumphs.

“Denny has really gotten way better ever since this car,” Busch said of Hamlin and how he’s adapted to the Gen 6 car in recent years. “He was always an aggressive plate racer, one that would make moves that you’re kind of, ‘Man, if he would just stay in line, I think this would turn out better.’

“He still does that today, but he’s making it work for himself, that not staying in line is better for Denny. I think since this car came though, he’s been a real good plate racer.

“He’s been fantastic at the game, he’s understood it, he’s made moves that I sometimes wouldn’t make that have worked, he’s able to pass a guy to get in line. … He’s very knowledgeable and skillful In making his moves and passes.”

Going forward from Daytona, Hamlin said his next goal is double-digit wins this season. If so, he’d become the first driver to earn 10 or more wins in a season since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007 when the seven-time champ won 10 races.

“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race.

“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year (Hamlin has reached the final four just twice since the format was introduced in 2014 — third that year and fourth last season). I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.

“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”

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Johnny Sauter on pole for tonight’s Truck race in Las Vegas

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Johnny Sauter will start from the pole in tonight’s Strat 200 Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter earned the eighth career pole of his Truck Series career – and first since 2018 – by topping the other 34 drivers that made qualifying attempts with a speed of 177.836 mph.

Sheldon Creed (177.643 mph) will start alongside Sauter on the front row for tonight’s race.

The rest of the top 10 qualifiers were Kyle Busch (177.282 mph), making his first Truck Series start of the season, followed by Christian Eckes (177.189 mph), Ty Majeski (177.189), Austin Hill (176.788 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.275), Raphael Lessard (176.056), Grant Enfinger (176.010) and Brett Moffitt (175.890).

Tonight’s race starts shortly after 9 p.m. ET (FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trucks qualifying results

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