Dale Jr. Download: Did Roger Penske change opinion on last-lap contact?

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It was the shot heard around the racing world Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Joey Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap for the win.

And it reminded Dale Earnhardt Jr. of another last-lap shot three years earlier at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Regan Smith, driving for JR Motorsports, bumped Alex Tagliani of Team Penske out of the lead for the Xfinity Series win in the Aug. 15, 2015 race.

“Really what (Smith) did, he just pushed (Tagliani) off the road; there was no question what happened,” team owner Roger Penske told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM after the race. “I guess if that’s the way these guys want to play, we’ll remember that. There will be another time.

“That, in my mind, didn’t give me the reason I’d hire a guy like Regan Smith, because he pushed a guy off on the last lap,” Penske added. “He should have raced him clean.”

During his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast (video above starting around the 5:00 mark), Earnhardt was struck by how Penske’s opinion seemed markedly different when Team Penske’s Logano moved Truex in a fashion that wasn’t entirely dissimilar, causing Truex to brand it a “cheap shot.”

“(Truex is) a racer and should know better than to say that,” Logano’s car owner Roger Penske retorted after Logano’s victory advanced him to championship race in Miami. “That was as clean a shot as you can have in a race like this.”

Earnhardt was amused by the differing views.

“Roger said, ‘Well, Martin knows better, being a race car driver. That was probably the nicest shot he could have expected to get at a race like this,’ ” Earnhardt said. “(Penske was) saying Martin should be ashamed of saying (it was a cheap shot) being the race car driver he is … that he got handled with kid gloves.

“But! Do you remember Mid-Ohio? Pushing (Tagliani) out of the way in the last corner? You know what Roger said about that? I will never hire a driver that will win a race that way. So all right, think about that. It depends on who’s doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, boy, you’re all for it. If it’s your favorite driver getting bumped out of the way, it’s (expletive). Even if you’re Roger Fricking Penske.”

Whether Logano’s move was clean or dirty seemingly depended entirely on one’s perspective.

“He just ran in the back of me and knocked me out of the way,” Truex said on NBCSN after the race. “Short track racing, but what comes around, goes around. He just took a cheap shot at the end there.”

After Martinsville’s race, Denny Hamlin may have summed it up best: “It depends on who is doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, you love it. If (it’s not), it’s dirty.”

Some of the times that haunt a driver most are when he’s too nice, according to Earnhardt.

“I’ve been a nice guy,” Earnhardt said. “There’s a lot of those moments in my career that I certainly regret. … You relive every race that you didn’t win. What you could have done differently. What you should have done. There’s moments when I know… if I’d been more aggressive. Or I could have run over the guy. So when I see Martin doing that I’m like ‘Argh, Martin come on, don’t do this again. ‘ ”

In the video above, Earnhardt also described a battle between himself and Kevin Harvick in the April 3, 2011 race at Martinisville when he unsuccessfully tried to move Harvick in the closing laps after yielding the lead.

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NASCAR America: Playoff crew chiefs look back at Martinsville, prepare for Texas

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Even though Kyle Busch left Martinsville with a 46-point advantage over the cutoff line, crew chief Adam Steven is cautious about how the playoff picture is shaping up entering Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But that team is not the only one with questions with two races left to determine the drivers who will race for the championship in Miami.

Clint Bowyer, who is 42 points behind the cutoff line, practically needs to win to advance to Miami.

NASCAR America’s Kelli Stavast visited the shops of three playoff teams and talked to crew chiefs about what went right at Martinsville, what went wrong and their outlook for the remainder of the Round of 8.

Busch was one of the favorites to win last week’s race after securing the pole and running well in practice. He finished fourth. Stevens does not consider a trip to championship spot entirely safe.

“The cutline is flexible,” Stevens told NASCAR America. “It depends on how many (playoff) winners and non-(playoff) winners we have. We know for a fact there’s going to be one car get in on points, but it might only be one and it could be three. If someone could tell me what that number is going to be, I’d feel a lot better about it. The main thing is we try to keep that lead over the 78 and the 4.”

While Busch can be encouraged by a strong Martinsville run, Bowyer had a series of misfortunes that left him a lap off the pace in 21st. It was the third time in the playoffs that he finished outside the top 20.

The team expected to contend for the victory, given its win at Martinsville in March.

“It was way more of a struggle than we were anticipating,” Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. “Qualifying well, really competitive in practice, really close in setup. … That car pretty much sat in the corner ready to go back to (Martinsville); never raced anywhere else all year. We were a little shocked.

“I’m some senses I really felt like in the position we were in, no matter what, you were going to have to win one of these races to move on. I don’t think our position approaching the next two races really changes. Gotta just try and win one if we can.”

Chase Elliott entered Martinsville fourth in the standings, three points above the cutline. He finished in the top 10 (seventh), but left the short track 31 points behind.

When Stavast visited the Hendrick Motorsports’ shop, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson told her if a team is too stressed out or anxious, it’s just a sign they are preparing for failure.

Elliott has a strong record at both Texas (four top 10s in five starts) and Phoenix (second last fall, third this spring), so they expect to be very relaxed.

For more, watch the videos above.

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Denny Hamlin unable to capitalize on last-lap fireworks at Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — As Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. bashed fenders on the last lap of Sunday’s Martinsville race, Denny Hamlin had a simple, yet blunt thought.

“Crash harder,” Hamlin thought. “Just crash harder.”

If Logano and Truex took each other out shy of the finish line, Hamlin could have secured his first Cup win of 2018 and ended a 43-race winless streak.

But they didn’t wreck. Logano and Truex got sideways as they barreled down the frontstretch, with Logano able to pull away at the last second.

As Truex fishtailed, Hamlin dove his No. 11 Toyota to the inside of Truex’s car and finished second.

It was his third top five in the last four races. Two of them have been runner-up finishes.

MORE: Truex’s crew chief shows frustration with Logano’s

MORE: Truex call’s Logano’s contact a “cheap shot”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has three races left to extend his streak of seasons with a win to 13.

Hamlin, who won Stage 1 and was fourth on the final restart with 37 laps to go, lamented having a weak car on short runs.

Hamlin also gave more discretion to teammate Kyle Busch on the final restart and as they raced in the closing laps.

Busch remains the playoffs. Hamlin was eliminated at the end of second round.

“I don’t think I would do anything different,” Hamlin said. “I rode behind (Busch), trying to be respectful of him.  Obviously, his situation, you don’t want to move a teammate out of the way, especially if he needs that one point when it comes down to the end.”

When it came to letting Busch get in line on restarts, Hamlin “would expect the same things from my teammates if I was in that situation.

“That part of it stinks. It’s two-fold, you hope you’re the guy getting let in next time. We worked really well together as teammates. I thought it was a great team effort. Hoping one of our cars would get a win, but obviously it didn’t. We all had a good showing. Looks like the two Toyotas that are left obviously are in a good points position.”

After he finally passed Busch and then Brad Keselowski, Hamlin “just ran as hard as I could” to track down Logano and Truex in the final three laps.

The two playoff drivers raced side-by-side for much of the last five circuits of the .526-mile track.

“I knew something would happen,” Hamlin said. “I just wanted to be as close as I could, hopefully capitalize. Just a tenth (of a second) away.”

Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief has ‘a few choice words’ with Joey Logano’s

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Cole Pearn, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr., approached Todd Gordon, Joey Logano‘s crew chief, on pit road after Sunday’s Martinsville race to show his frustration over how Logano raced Truex on the final lap.

Logano shoved Truex out-of-the-way in the final turn. They then made contact again on the frontstretch, allowing Logano to slip across the finish line first.

Pearn said he shared “a few choice words that I probably shouldn’t have.”

“I’m happy I don’t have a baseball bat or a jack handle right now,” Pearn added with a laugh.

“It’s tough to take,” Pearn told NBCSN. “Martin did a good job of racing him clean, worked him over and eventually got him. I guess we shouldn’t have cleared him (out of Turn 2) and given him the chance. Not surprised coming from (Logano), that’s kind of how he drives. Whatever, that’s his choice to make. I guess that’s short track racing. A crappy way to have it being that close and working so hard for this team.”

Gordon told NBCSN that if their roles were reversed he’d be unhappy too.

“But it’s what short track racing is,” Gordon said. “It’s where this all came from.”

Watch the above video for more.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Petty react to Martinsville finish

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For the second year in a row the Martinsville playoff race ended in fireworks as Joey Logano made contact with Martin Truex Jr. multiple times on the last lap on his way to the win and securing a spot in the championship four.

After the race Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Petty shared their thoughts on the finish.

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. calls Joey Logano’s contact a “cheap shot”

MORE: Car owner Roger Penske takes exception to Martin Truex Jr.’s comments 

“Like everybody says, more short tracks! Let’s go to more short tracks and you’ll see more of this,” Earnhardt said on NBCSN. “I know a lot of fans are upset about what went down. But this is the box race car drivers are put in. What matters is the championship. Joey doesn’t have a championship. Joey’s trying to get to Homestead. Joey’s going to do whatever he can. He didn’t wreck (Truex), he didn’t put him in the fence. I’ve told Martin forever he’s too nice. … I’d be upset too.”

“Classic,” Petty said. “It’s going to go right down in history. Classic.”

Watch the above video for more.