Corey LaJoie: Denny Hamlin feud ‘escalated to a point it shouldn’t have’

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Corey LaJoie issued an apology to Denny Hamlin regarding recent statements made during their Twitter feud and said “what started as a me standing up for myself escalated to a point it shouldn’t have reached.”

LaJoie’s statement was posted on social media and came the day after the driver said on his podcast that Hamlin texted him and Go Fas Racing officials last week threatening to wreck LaJoie’s No. 32 Ford. Hamlin denied LaJoie’s claim.

LaJoie said while “there have been no lies spoken … some things are better left unsaid.”

He said “I apologize for some of the things I’ve said towards Denny that were fueled by emotion and continue to recognize his exceptional ability to wheel a race car.”

 

In the newest episode of his Motor Racing Network podcast, “Sunday Money,” LaJoie detailed the timeline of his feud with Hamlin, which largely played out on social media before it escalated last week.

LaJoie’s recounting began during NASCAR’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic when Cup drivers competed in the Pro Invitational iRacing Series.

“(Hamlin) subtweets on my stuff, ‘We’ve been hearing about how much your cars suck, now’s your time to prove it on iRacing.’ I finished second at Talladega. I don’t like iRacing, but I jump on and do it just strictly because he called me out. Finished second. I respond to that tweet, pull it back up with the eyes little emoji. He says, ‘Well, Talladega is not really the real thing. Do a race where it really matters.’ Go to Dover, qualify fifth, messed up everybody’s Draft Kings lineup because I wanted to show him I’m capable of qualifying good. Started in the back because of the invert, wrecked.

“Go to North Wilkesboro. … Was going to finish in the top three there, my brake pedal broke. So that’s the end of the iRacing saga. No more Dennis Hamlin (LaJoie’s nickname for Hamlin) anywhere to be found. Race at Atlanta (on June 7). Drive around, finish 27th all day. I post my loop heart rate data and it’s fairly high … He subtweets on it, ‘this is why we couldn’t count on you in the fourth quarter,’ talking about his basketball league, with his heart rate, which was super not consistent … but it was lower than mine. So he’s making a joke about my competitive nature as well as my fitness level.”

“So then I say, ‘Hey, can we trade cars?'” LaJoie continued. “He assumed I’m just (expletive) on his driving abilities every time I respond to him. Goes back and forth and says I’m a (expletive) driver more or less and it dies. We go to Martinsville, which is a driver’s race track. The 32 car finishes (18th) six positions in front of (Hamlin). Now the floodgates open, right? Because all of a sudden three days ago Denny was talking about how the driver makes the difference, it’s not the car. We go to a track where the drivers make a difference and I finish in front of him, when his teammate (Martin Truex Jr.) wins the race. …

“We don’t even go back and forth (on Twitter). I did some passive aggressive stuff, right? Kermit the Frog drinking the tea and the fans are just piling it on, ‘Denny, you suck,’ this, that and the other, which I never said any of this. Not once. Turned around and I acknowledged, I only had three days left to live this up. We’re going to go to Homestead and I’m going to get my (expletive) kicked in. I already knew it, called it Wednesday night. …

“The only personal thing I’ve said to him in this whole ordeal was the one thing about ‘Yeah, he’s probably going to win at Homestead because there’s no pressure on the line.’ Probably a (expletive) thing to say, but look what happened, he ended up winning. … He texts me on Friday night, ‘Congrats on getting your car crashed.’ Talking about how he’s going to wreck me on Sunday. … It’s premeditated threat, right? … He proceeded, this is at like 11:30 at night, proceeded to text my car owner (Archie St. Hilaire), Mason (St. Hilaire), the general manager, as well as my crew chief (Ryan Sparks), and says ‘Congrats on getting your stuff crashed, your driver’s going to learn a hard lesson.’

“So my owner is like, ‘Hey, this is not how this is going to work, because this is a $300,000 race car, for something that was just a Twitter beef that he started.’ Sends the stuff to (NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve) O’Donnell. O’Donnell is like, ‘Ok, if you’re going to wreck a guy don’t just pre-meditate it because we already suspended Matt Kenseth for two races (in 2015) for wrecking Joey Logano on purpose. Now something’s actually premeditated, so we’re going to have to hit it even harder, right? So do what you got to do.’

“So this thing’s gone from just a little Twitter beef to an actual, he’s like threatening me. Now my owner will be mad at me if (Hamlin) wrecks me, because at the end of the day I’m the one driving it. It’s his money getting burned up. … Jay Fabian, series director, texts us a pit location (to meet him at on Sunday). … It’s 2 o’clock. I’m there, it’s 10 minutes early. He gets there about 2:08, a little late. We go over to a motorhome and we sit down. There was some ‘F you’s’ back and forth, pretty tense at the beginning. … He just felt I was attacking his driving ability the whole time. … If I didn’t remind him seven times that he started this and kept subtweeting on my stuff, I didn’t do it once. He went from, ‘It wasn’t about you, you keep making it about your equipment.’ I said, ‘Dennis, you literally said you, the word y-o-u, nine times in the first six tweets to me, so of course it’s about me.’

“‘Don’t say it’s not about me. Don’t say that it’s about you having established the difference between an elite driver and another driver. That’s never what it was about. Then he wanted to kind of backtrack and say ‘It was only because I liked you was why I was messing with you, I don’t mess with guys I don’t like.’

“I was like, ‘You don’t say the (expletive) that you did, nor text everybody in my team that you were going to crash me if you like me.’ At the end of the day, they told him if you’re going to premeditate your decision on crashing this guy, we don’t have any choice, because we already have the evidence that you’re going to do it.’ He kind of softened his stance on that. We spoke through it like men, I told him what I was taking offense to and there was some things he took offense to, that weren’t even contextually accurate because if he goes back and reads what I said, I never made any sort of jabs at his ability, nor his character. He just assumed that I did. He thinks everything’s about him. I defused it enough to where he didn’t just completely trash my (expletive) on Sunday afternoon and he ended up winning the race.”

Hamlin refuted LaJoie’s story on Twitter Wednesday evening.

Hamlin was asked about his feud with LaJoie during his press conference on Sunday.

“I understand his stance and he understands mine,” Hamlin said. “Mine was to win the races I’ve won, I didn’t have the best car every time. I still have to go out and beat probably some of the best drivers in history that drive for Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart‑Haas and Penske.

“No one gave me anything. My parents had nothing, like nothing nothing. I got here the old‑fashioned way. Any time you feel like anyone says, ‘Hey, if I had what you had, I could do that,’ it’s offensive. It’s a little offensive because you know personally how hard you worked to get there.

“I took offense to it. He took offense to the things that I said. I understand it was a miss ‑‑ just kind of two guys that were talking about some sensitive subjects. I think we’re okay now.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.