FORT WORTH, Texas — Denny Hamlin took a verbal poke at Joey Logano and criticized Logano’s crew chief for a “lack of control” of his team Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin and Logano made contact late in last week’s playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, cutting Logano’s tire. Logano approached Hamlin after the race to discuss the issue and punctuated the discussion by shoving Hamlin, triggering an altercation.
Hamlin and Logano have a history that goes back to 2013 to a confrontation after the Bristol spring race and an on-track incident the following week at Auto Club Speedway that injured Hamlin.
Asked Friday if he ever gets the feeling that Logano knows he can get to him, Hamlin said: “No. He’s not that smart.”
“He touched me first. First thing, as a man, you can’t just let that stuff happen. That’s the first thing.”
Logano later said he shouldn’t have shoved Hamlin but “I really wanted to go over and talk to him and get his side of the story of what happened and he just said I ran up into the wall basically and wasn’t as apologetic as I was looking for and that escalated the situation too much. I shouldn’t have shoved him.”
After Logano shoved Hamlin on the right shoulder, Logano walked away. Hamlin followed and crew members joined in.
NASCAR suspended Logano’s tire specialist, Dave Nichols Jr., for this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway for grabbing Hamlin from behind and tossing him to the ground during the pit road scuffle.
Hamlin said he agreed with the suspension.
“My agitation with that guy is he’s the first one in all of Joey’s confrontations,” Hamlin said of Nichols. “You go back and look. He dives in there and starts most of this stuff.”
Hamlin also was critical of Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, for the role Nichols played in the incident.
“I thought my guys were pretty level, to be honest with you, through that whole deal,” Hamlin said of his crew. “I think you could see quite a few times that Joey is right in front of them and no one lays a hand on Joey. I think it’s just a lack of control that Todd has got with his people.”
Gordon said earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “the direction that our organization has is (to) separate drivers. We don’t want to have drivers beating on each other. Unfortunately, in this situation that happened there, the separation was with too much power afterward and I don’t think the crew member … he was trying to separate the drivers and did so with probably more force than he anticipated and he’s regretful of that.”
Gordon was among those who stepped in between the drivers seeking to keep the situation from escalating.
Logano defended Gordon on Friday after hearing Hamlin’s comments.
“Here are the facts,” Logano said. “I think Todd has great control of our race team and is a great crew chief and does a great job leading all of us. I said it after the race to TV that I probably shouldn’t have gone down there looking for an apology for something he probably wasn’t going to apologize for and I let my emotions get the best of me. That was a mistake on my part. I probably didn’t handle that correctly. It doesn’t make what he did on the race track right, but I think at the same time he will probably play that card as much as he wants, he can run his mouth as much as he wants. I am going to run my race and we will see who ends up ahead.”
Last weekend was the first time that Hamlin and Logano have had issues in this year’s playoffs.
Hamlin chastised Logano at Dover when Logano, running 24 laps down, didn’t move over for Hamlin, who was leading. Hamlin was stuck behind Logano and that allowed Martin Truex Jr. to close and get by to win the second stage.
“All he did was piss some people off and what did he really gain? He didn’t gain anything,” Hamlin said after the Dover race. “He just pissed off some guys that he’s racing with now. So now we’re going to race him extra hard for what? For the reason he didn’t want to go 26 laps down? Anybody would tell you that’s just not a good choice.”
How much did what happen at Dover play a role in how closely Hamlin raced Logano at Martinsville, leading to their contact?
“I would lean more toward racing circumstances, but absolutely I take into account who is besides me at all times and I was not going to give one inch,” Hamlin said Friday at Texas. “I misjudged. The on-track stuff was definitely my fault. There was no intention to run into him or run him into the wall or anything like that because I put myself at a pretty big risk there cutting a tire as well.
“I was just trying to use all the space I could. Certainly if it was a teammate or someone else beside me or just really anyone, yeah, I probably don’t gas it up quite as soon and try to take all that space but certainly all that stuff plays its factors for sure.”
Logano suggested that Hamlin needs to be careful.
“I have nothing to be careful about, he wrecked me,” Logano said. “I don’t race him any differently. I am not sure he has handled this the smartest way so far.”
Hamlin also stated Friday that he will have offseason surgery on his right shoulder for a torn labrum.
“I really don’t know how it happened to be honest with you, but it’s something that has been nagging really for years,” Hamlin said. “I’ve had shoulder issues. It just got to the point where it was really bad and got it scanned and figured out what it was. It hadn’t really affected me in the car at all. That part has really been fine.”
Hamlin said he had a cortisone shot a few weeks ago on the shoulder.
“It was just progressively getting worse over the late summer to early fall,” Hamlin said. “So just a few weeks ago the doctors came and gave me a little bit of relief with that just kind of to get me into the offseason where I can fix it.”