Todd Gordon

Denny Hamlin takes verbal jab at Joey Logano, No. 22 team

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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.”

Podcast: Dale Jarrett believes Joey Logano (wisely) spun intentionally

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NASCAR on NBC analyst and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett believes Joey Logano intentionally spun his car late in the Martinsville race after contact with the car of Denny Hamlin.

The reason in Jarrett’s mind? Logano’s spin brought out a caution that helped keep the Team Penske driver on the lead lap instead of losing two laps if he had limped into the pits under green to change tires.

There’s no doubt in my mind he spun his car intentionally and finally in a place when he realized he had a problem, and he was going to need a caution because they were going to go a couple laps down if they had to pit under green and make this change,” Jarrett said on this week’s postrace playoff edition of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast with Nate Ryan.

After contact with Hamlin that squeezed him into the wall and left his left-rear tire flat, Logano nearly lost control of his No. 22 Ford in Turn 4.

After traveling down the frontstretch on Lap 458, the car looped in the outside lane of Turn 1 without hitting the wall or another car. That brought out a caution that allowed Logano to pit for four tires.

Logano essentially forced NASCAR to decide if his action was intentional, Jarrett said. As it turned out, NASCAR did not penalize Logano. Officials told NBC Sports that the incident wasn’t reviewed by the scoring tower.

According to ground rules provided to Cup crew chiefs, NASCAR officials can penalize at their discretion if they determine a driver intentionally caused a caution. There also have been postrace penalties in the past after NASCAR determined that drivers spun intentionally to cause a yellow.

“Why not put the ball in NASCAR’s court to try to decide?” Jarrett said. It’s a ball and strike call. I’ll take it even further than that: Did the pitcher intentionally hit a batter? There’s only one person that really knows for sure if that’s the case. And in this case, there’s only one person that knows 100 percent.

“I think I know as a driver and competitor in that situation that I’d rather take my chances on NASCAR having to make that call and said I created a caution intentionally. I think that’s a one-lap penalty if you do that. That’s less than what they were going to lose if they went in under green and change tires.

Why not put (NASCAR) in that position? They might not make that call. It might look like (Logano) was carrying too much speed and just spun.

“But there’s no doubt in my mind that he did the thing that most of us – most of as drivers – would have done in that situation. I don’t fault him at all. It’s no different than a crew chief pushing the limits of what he can get through inspection. A driver is doing the same thing. And in this case, I think he’s going to come out with a better end, whichever way the call went there.”

Logano salvaged an eighth-place finish at Martinsville that kept him in the final transfer spot for the playoffs, 14 points above the cutline. If he had pitted under green with 40 laps remaining, he likely would have finished outside the top 20.

“Now those guys that are below the cutline kind of wish that would have played out that way so that everybody’d be a lot closer to that cut line,” Jarrett said.

Noting how hard Logano raced at Dover while 24 laps down because every playoff point matters, Jarrett said Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon have skillfully maximized points while minimizing potentially negative outcomes for the No. 22 during the playoffs.

This is four races in a row for Joey Logano and his team to make something of literally a disaster for them,” Jarrett said. “They didn’t make that much at Dover once they had that problem, but the other two races in the Round of 12, they came back and made something after getting crashed at Talladega and here again (at Martinsville), having another problem that could have put them outside the top four here, but they came back and saved that.

He was able to keep his wits about him – which is hard to do for a driver – and drive up through the field and get something of it.”

You can listen to the NASCAR on NBC Podcast via the embed above or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. You also can watch the podcast via the Motorsports on NBC YouTube channel.

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NASCAR hints at penalty for crew member who tossed Denny Hamlin to ground

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A NASCAR official hinted Monday that a penalty could be coming as early as today to the crew member who yanked Denny Hamlin to the ground during a confrontation between Hamlin and Joey Logano after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR met after the race with Travis Geisler, competition director at Team Penske, Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano, and the unnamed Team Penske crew member who threw down Hamlin.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed the issue on “The Morning Drive” on Monday.

“As we always say, we know emotions are going to run high, especially at this time of the season,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The drivers, we don’t encourage it, but we know that they’re going to address each other after the race when they have an incident and you saw that happen.

“Then, unfortunately, instead of kind of breaking up a fight, I think what we saw was an aggressive move by a crew member, so we called the team into the hauler, including Todd Gordon. … I think in this case, you’ve got a crew member who was maybe trying to break it up but certainly an aggressive move that we viewed on our part and unfortunately we’ll probably have to take some action to address that later today or tomorrow.”

Gordon discussed what happened after the race Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and took some responsibility for the incident.

“I probably take some of the ownership myself to start with,” Gordon said. “Stopped Joey when he got out of the car and he’s frustrated. He got run up in the wall with 50 to go and was frustrated about it and justifiably so. I went back and rewatched it. He pretty much got put in the wall on a straightaway. There’s frustration with that.

“Stopped Joey at the car and said we just don’t need to handle that right now and let his emotions get down, and I thought they were at a point where he could go talk. Unfortunately, in the conversation there got to be a push (from Logano).

“The direction that our organization has is separate drivers. We don’t want to have drivers beating on each other. We’ve had the conversation internally, we want situations diffused and separated. Unfortunately, in this situation that happened there, the separation was with too much power afterwards 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.

“See what NASCAR does that and where it goes. There weren’t any punches or anything pulled. Denny got pulled out there and got pulled down pretty hard. Apologized to Denny for that and how that was handled. Ultimately, I’ll put that one back on me to start with. I shouldn’t have let Joey down there to start with. I probably made a poor decision in letting him go down and talk. A little bit of that is on me and we’ll work forward from that. Understand Joey’s frustration. I think it’s genuine. What started the whole situation was what happened on the race track.  We can talk about what happens in short track racing and all, 50 to go to get pushed up into the wall side-by-side it’s going to frustrate you. I think if the roles were revered it’s probably frustrating as much the other way. … We’ll see what NASCAR does and we’ll adapt to whatever comes forward.”

This is the second consecutive weekend where drivers scuffled on pit road and crew members were involved. It happened after the Kansas Xfinity race the week before. Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick scuffled and crew members converged. NASCAR issued no penalties.

“I think if you go back to Kansas, we spent a lot of time reviewing that video and in our mind, always a judgment call but different incident,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We didn’t see anybody really trying to escalate the situation.

“I think in this case (at Martinsville), you had a crew member who, honestly, I don’t think realized the force with which he made that move. We have some light drivers and some big crew members and unfortunately that’s what happens when those situations take place. I think they understand what’s coming. It’s not something we want to see or encourage but we’ll have to address.”

Asked what kind of message NASCAR can send to crews about jumping into confrontations between drivers, O’Donnell said:

“I think we have. I think we’ve been consistent in our reaction and will be consistent here. This is a team sport and with any team sport, I think you’re going to take care of your quarterback so to speak and you see that.

“What we can do is when we need to do address this with a penalty we will. When we see drivers, or in this case, crew members in Kansas trying to break something up, we won’t react. It’s case-by-case, but it’s a passionate sport and there’s a lot on the line and sometimes emotions go a little too far and we’ve got to react.”

Long: Will Joey Logano’s actions lead to repercussions or another title?

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Joey Logano isn’t making friends in the playoffs, but does it really matter?

For the third time in the last eight playoff races, a driver climbed from his car upset with how Logano raced them and suggested a form of payback could be coming.

* Martin Truex Jr. called Logano’s bump-and-run on the final lap of last fall’s playoff race at Martinsville a “cheap shot” and said days before the championship race in Miami: “I won’t just wreck a guy … unless it is the 22.” (Logano did take part in the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation Catwalk for a Cause event in May). 

* Aric Almirola was upset with how Logano raced him in last fall’s playoff race at Texas, which was a week after Logano had assured his spot in the championship event by winning at Martinsville. Almirola said then: “He just continues to make things harder on himself. … When Homestead comes around if I’m not in it, he’ll know it.” Asked how, Almirola responded: “Just make it really difficult on him.” (Almirola and Logano talked a day later).

* Denny Hamlin expressed his frustration with Logano after last weekend’s playoff race at Dover. Logano was 24 laps down when Hamlin, who was leading, couldn’t get around him late in stage 2. Hamlin lost the lead and finished third in the stage, costing him a playoff point. “He just pissed off some guys that he’s racing with now,” Hamlin said of Logano. “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.”

So far nothing has happened — except Logano winning last year’s Cup title.

That Logano races hard is no surprise. It’s a part of his DNA. His second career Cup win came in 2012 after he did a bump-and-run on Mark Martin in the final laps at Pocono. Logano has had issues throughout his career with Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Truex, Almirola and Hamlin, among others. So, yes, this is Logano’s style.

But even Logano admitted during last weekend’s race at Dover he was in a tough position. This was his radio conversation with crew chief Todd Gordon after stage 2 ended:

Gordon: Did a good job there, man. I know we got eaten up there at the end, but you did a good job of hanging in the whole time.

Logano: Yeah. I dunno. Trying to do the right thing by everyone.

Gordon: Yeah. You’re in a tough spot. You are. I totally understand it.

Logano: What’s our situation now? How many more laps do I have to make up?

Gordon: 54 is 14 laps down. We’re 24 laps down. The 52 is 13. The 51 is 12. Some of those guys won’t end up having enough tires to run the whole race, so, we’ll see where it gets. We’re 36 right now. Every spot we can get from here is a point.”

Logano would not pass the 54 (Garrett Smithley), 52 (JJ Yeley) or 51 (B.J. McLeod). Logano finished 34th, gaining spots only after mechanical issues caused Chris Buescher and Ryan Blaney to the garage.

While Logano’s conversation was taking place, other team radios were lit about his driving.

Hamlin didn’t realize Logano was so many laps down. Told he was, Hamlin said on his radio: “Then what the (expletive) is he doing racing us like this? Twenty-four laps?”

Logano also was a discussion point on Kyle Larson’s radio.

Larson: He’s racing awful hard, huh?

Crew chief Chad Johnston: You sound like you’re surprised. Nothing new.

Larson: I am surprised that he’s racing that hard at 24 laps down, I can see one up.

Johnston: Yeah. I think it is all things we have to put in our memory bank. And when we get the opportunity to do the same thing to him, we remember that, don’t cut him any slack. But, for today we have to race to win, so, we’ll let him go to the back or do a wave around and get one of ‘em back so he can be 23 down. And we’ll go race for a win.”

Memory bank is the key word. Drivers and teams don’t forget. Should Logano advance to the third round, he could face quite a challenge.

Two of the three races in the third round are at Martinsville and ISM Raceway near Phoenix. Both feature plenty of traffic and can be difficult to pass at — and that’s without someone mad at you. NASCAR is expected to approve a traction compound to help drivers pass at ISM Raceway, the last chance for competitors to earn a spot in the Championship 4 race the following week in Miami. 

Will Logano’s actions catch up to him in the coming weeks? Or will he be on his way to a second championship while divers are left to mutter about how the No. 22 Team Penske Ford races?

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Potential can be such an overbearing description for some. While Kyle Larson exudes California cool, many have expected him to win more often. In some cases, his team needed better cars or pit stops. In other cases, Larson needed to be better.

He said that last weekend’s win at Dover was an example of how he is improving.

“It takes focus to win in any type of car, but it takes a different type of focus to win a 400‑ or 500‑mile race,” Larson said after his sixth career Cup victory, which moved him to the next round. “You know, in a sprint car race, it’s 30, 40 laps, and they don’t have an opportunity to work on their car at any point in the race to make it better, where in this I’ve tried to get better at my communication and tried to make it easier for the team to figure out what adjustments to make because it felt like when I look at other people in the past, I’ve been good the first half of races or even past that, but then it seems like as other people get to work on their cars, that’s where they maybe get better than me at the end and that’s what they find to go out there and win.

“(Sunday) I felt like I was struggling, I was getting frustrated in the early part of the race, and then took a deep breath, changed up what I was doing behind the wheel, and we also made our car better at the same time, and here we are with a win.

“I think that’s just the things that guys like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and Logano, Truex, Keselowski are really good at just staying focused, and not that I wasn’t focused, it just takes a different level of focus.”

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It was easy to miss Kyle Busch’s finish Sunday at Dover. Other than the speeding penalty he incurred on Lap 122, he was not noticeable on the way to a sixth-place finish.

Busch had expressed his disappointment not only with the racing but his result at Dover in May when he finished 10th and did not exude confidence heading into the playoff race. He qualified 18th, worst of the remaining playoff drivers. He said his car’s setup was similar to what teammate Martin Truex Jr. used to win at Dover in May but still didn’t work for him.

That Busch came out of a race that he didn’t seem to feel good about with nearly a top-five finish could be viewed as a good sign for his fans. Those points earned could mean more should he encounter problems in Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC). Busch enters the race third in the standings, 48 points ahead of Joey Logano, who is the first driver outside a transfer spot.

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Joey Logano’s crew chief: ‘Really fortunate’ Talladega is next race

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Anyone expecting crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano‘s No. 22 team to throw in the towel on their playoff hopes after Sunday’s pre-race mechanical issue that led to 34th-place finish is in for a shock.

Gordon admitted Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” his team sees the second race of the Round of 12 playoff round at Talladega Superspeedway through what others would consider “backwards logic.”

“Really, really fortunate we got Talladega coming up,” said Gordon, who has three wins at the superspeedway with Logano since 2015.

“With Roush Yates horsepower and the cars we build here at Team Penske and Joey and (spotter) TJ (Majors) do a phenomenal job at that place,” Gordon said. “If you look at the speedways this year, we’ve been in contention to win in two of three of them and we were running up front at Daytona (in July) when we got damaged and then the rain delay. I feel good about going speedway racing and executing a great race.”

Logano heads to Talladega tied with William Byron in points for the last transfer spot but Byron owns the tiebreaker (best finish in this round). Logano’s car experienced a gear issue during the warmup laps, which forced him to the garage for the first 23 laps of the race.

Gordon said even if Dover hadn’t been an impound weekend he’s not sure the gear issue could’ve been caught.

“We haven’t delved through everything that happened here,” Gordon. “I don’t know that we get to the point that even on a non-impound event, we’ve only got three-and-half-hours to get our cars ready from practice to presenting them in the (inspection) line. You do what you can and we do a great job, the gear shop does a great job here. Obviously, this is an outlier for our organization to have an issue. I don’t know if we were parked on pit road a little funky, backed up the hill. It shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know what happened. Something broke.”

Gordon explained to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the team’s approach for the rest of the event after Logano returned to the race. He finished 25 laps down, with Garrett Smithley the next car in front of him by two laps.

“You never know in those situations,” Gordon said. “Every position’s a point and every point matters. … We just put ourselves into making every lap we could, because at the end of the day as we kept going it almost became the carrot to dangle there were a couple of those cars that were off the pace and losing laps and we just kept trying to catch them. We needed about 50 more laps, I think we could’ve passed another car.”

Chasing that carrot would lead Logano to receive criticism from Denny Hamlin for the way he raced him while Hamlin led late in Stage 2.

Gordon pointed to Logano’s narrow points position heading to Talladega as a defense for Logano.

“It’s no different than chasing for a stage win because it’s a bonus point,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Any point you can gather in this round is going to make a big difference. If you look at the points right now, if you just said the round ended yesterday, we’d be out by one point. Because we’re tied with William Byron and they out finished us. That’s what the tiebreaker goes to, the best finish within that round.”

With the chaos of Talladega looming, Gordon doesn’t expect to change his team’s approach to the superspeedway.

“The best way that I know to avoid being caught up in the wreck at Talladega is be in front of it,” Gordon said. “If you start playing your game differently that’s when you make mistakes, because it’s not doing the things you’re used to doing. I think we’ll go to Talladega and race the way we’ve raced (all) along. Race hard, race smart and get ourselves into position.”