|Stewart follows Logano on pit road following the race at Auto Club Speedway.|
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ferry/Getty Images
Today saw the beginning of a feud. Not the end or the middle but the beginning. When Joey Logano drove up the track and Denny Hamlin took the stance of turning into the No. 22 to take him with him, the feud began. It was a conscious act on both parts. Both were very aware of who they were racing and how they were racing each other. It was an act of aggression on both sides. It was an act that would lead to an apparent injury to Hamlin when his car went full speed into an unprotected inside wall head on. Although Hamlin would climb from the car under his own power, pain would drop him to the ground almost instantly. Pain that has been reported to be back pain. With a history of back injury in the past this seems to be a strong possibility. At the time of this writing there was no update on Denny's condition, he was transferred by air ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation and would be kept there over night for observation.
At the beginning of every broadcast interview after a wreck the driver is given an update on others involved if they are not coming from the care center. It is a courtesy to the driver being interviewed. After seeing the replay of the incident, Joey Logano was asked about the incident with Denny Hamlin. He made the following statement: "He shouldn't have done what he did last week and that's what he gets. He deserved what he got." The statement was flat and definite. It was an admission of intent and it was completely without remorse.
But Logano's problems didn't begin or end there. He had created a new adversary, one that most will tell you was a mistake to create. That adversary was Tony Stewart. The incidents are linked together by actions on the track. This all started when Logano was disgruntled over the fact that Hamlin blocked him late in the race and thus in his eyes and opinion cost him a better finish. Today, Logano himself did the same thing to Tony Stewart. Last week, Joey went down and challenged Denny Hamlin over the action. Today, Stewart did the same and just like Logano he threw a punch. His landed square.
Stewart was incensed that Logano would do the same thing he had been enraged at someone else for doing. "For a guy that has been complaining about how everybody else is driving here and then (for) him to do that it’s a double standard. He makes the choice. He makes the decision to run us down there and when you run a driver down there then you take responsibility for what happens after that. He is a tough guy on pit road as soon as one of his crew guys gets in the middle of it. Until then he’s a scared little kid. Then he wants to sit there and throw a water bottle at me. He is going to learn a lesson. He can run his mouth on Twitter and stuff all he wants tonight. I’ve got plenty of people that are going to watch for that. It’s time he learns a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough. He has sat there and done this double standard and he’s nothing but a little rich kid that has never had to work in his life. He’s going to learn, what us working guys that had to work our way up, know about how it works.” Stewart stated very matter of fact in post race interview.
Kevin Harvick has been down this road with Logano before and had an interesting observation, "Racing hard is one thing...but not chopping and blocking, and not giving somebody a lane to race," said Harvick. "He's responsible for his own career and everybody's actions around him. So he can either fix it and go about things the right way or not. In my opinion he gets bad advice on how he needs to race."
The common theme that runs through most of these altercations for Joey is a sense of entitlement and double standards. In other words, it's his track and you are suppose to race him his way and he can race you any way he feels is necessary at the time. Translate this very simply to I want what you have and if you don't give it to me I will break it. If we look back at Joey's resume we don't see a lot of grass roots type racing struggles. We see store bought cars, big dollar equipment and a very supportive father who pushed Logano every step of the way. Ironically, the controversies he has encountered have all been with drivers who have had to work and race and claw their way to the top of the game.
One might say well they are jealous of what he had. But the truth is that it was Logano who in every case instigated the controversy. Harvick at Pocono. Stewart at California. Hamlin at Bristol.
The opinion that "Sliced Bread" was going to be the greatest thing to come to NASCAR was quickly disproved when Logano replaced the departing Stewart at Joe Gibbs Racing in the Home Depot No. 20. Logano, with no Nationwide experience, climbed into a Cup car to compete when he was not even old enough to pull his own Bud Shootout bottle. For three years he had the guidance of one of the premier crew chiefs on the circuit and one of the most patient. In that three years Logano won two races. The struggle was evident every week but it was not clear why there was so little success between two very successful people. There have been speculations of interference from family and countering of instruction by advisers but in truth no one had an answer. Logano seemed excited to see Zipadelli go to Stewart Haas Racing for the 2012 season and welcomed Jason Ratcliff as his crew chief. But that combination did not prove any more successful. So Logano sought a new team at Penske racing.
Joey's struggles with controversy have continued there. Without the guidance and intercession of Coach Joe Gibbs, former team mates and other drivers seem less willing after four years to give Logano any more leeway. Logano seems at times to be his worst enemy with comments like, "I have a scorecard. I ain't putting up with that. ... I ain't getting run over and not doing something about it." Like many in his age group Logano tends to take his battles to social media. Sadly, his competitors also choose to use the outlet as a way to respond as was apparent in the twitter exchange between Logano and Hamlin earlier this week. Hamlin who apparently text Logano an apology found that was not adequate as Logano wanted a face to face apology. When told that Hamlin had said it was over. Logano responded with, "It ain't over until I decide it's over."
Yet today after the incident with Stewart, Joey stated, "I will talk to him this week. We will work it out." Stewart on the other hand was not nearly as gracious about that possibility saying, "If he wants to talk about it, we can talk about it. After he threw the water bottle at me like a little girl, we’ll go at it now.”
So what is the answer? NASCAR has become famous for it's interventions. Maybe the time has come for one for Joey Logano. Perhaps anger management like they sent Tony Stewart to early in his career or perhaps sensitivity training. Or maybe the answer is already in place, Boys Have It. In all walks of life there is the one person that knocks you down a peg when you get a little to big for your britches. Who opens your eyes to the fact that your way is not always the right way or the best way. Perhaps the answer is a demo derby or perhaps as Humphy Wheeler suggested a boxing ring. No rules first man down loses get it all out of your system because when you step out of the ring it's over. But at the rate we are going young Mr. Logano is going to get hurt. He has taken on and chosen to make adversaries of some of the sports hardest core competitors. Men that don't back down from a fight or away from a punch. There is a big difference between threatening Denny Hamlin and threatening Tony Stewart. There is just as big a difference in wrecking and hurting Denny Hamlin and wrecking Kevin Harvick.
We are all responsible for our own actions. Regardless of social class and right or wrong of it. If you hurt someone you are responsible for the injury. You are responsible for the words you speak. If you are not willing or able to accept that responsibility it might be a wise thing to play by the same set of rules you expect your fellow competitors to play by. Using the excuse of I didn't know he was hurt when you were told at the time you watched the replay that your opponent was injured is a cop out. It's time to take responsibility for the words and the actions or it's time for the intervention. Preferably both. But either way it goes Joey Logano's trip to Martinsville looks to be a hot time at the old track that night. Because the one constant in racing is that the start finish line doesn't move and you end at the same place you began. In other words, what goes around comes around and the concrete wall always wins and it always hurts when you hit it. You know thinking about who he has on his tail looking for him, if I were him I might call in sick.