Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who needs the Harlem Shake when you've got the Bristol Bump?

Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

It's Bristol, baby. 

The hottest ticket in NASCAR, or so they say. Why's that? Because the unique configuration of the half-mile track lends itself to the beatin' and bangin' that most fans love. And maybe because if there's a feud or rivalry brewing, it's going to come to a boil at Bristol Motor Speedway. 

A relatively innocuous Twitter exchange between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano after the Daytona 500 seemed to escalate during Sunday's Food City 500 when Hamlin spun Logano after Logano "slipped up into me." Logano didn't see it that way and after the race made a visit to Hamlin, who was still sitting in his car. Hamlin's crew pulled Logano back without incident, but the post-race war of words seems to indicate that the conflict is not over. 

“We had a fast race car, that’s for sure. I was racing for the lead and it’s frustrating," said Logano. "That’s a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car – probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now. He decided to run in the back of me, so, whatever. I have a scorecard and I’m not putting up with that. What goes around comes around. He already ran down his right-front tire, so he deserves it.”

When asked if Hamlin might be retaliating for Daytona, Logano said, “I never did anything wrong in Daytona...I think he’s just driving like an idiot, that’s all.”

Logano declined to disclose what he said to Hamlin, but Hamlin had no such compunction. "He said he was coming for me. I usually don't see him, so it's usually not a factor."

Hamlin denied any connection to past events, though. "You really got to control your car and he slipped up into me. Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice," Hamlin said. "I just, you know, I meant to run into him. I didn't mean to spin him out, but his day was fine. He still had a bad day anyway for whatever reason...we finished bad and he finished bad. It's even."

And as is almost mandatory now, the fray made the pair's Twitter time line:
“@joeylogano: Hey @dennyhamlin  great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on”
@dennyhamlin: Why's that.. What would u do? 

Perhaps the most entertaining element of the whole situation came from Hamlin's JGR teammate Kyle Busch and Logano's Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, the second- and third-place finishers, respectively. The top three drivers answer questions in the media center post-race. 

Keep in mind that Busch and Keselowski share enough enmity that even in the Nationwide post-race presser, when asked about Kyle Larson's choice not to bump Busch to win the race, Busch used Keselowski as a example of how not to build respect among other drivers.  

"I think there's a way about going about things. I think there's the way that I did it and there's the way that (Brad) Keselowski did it. He (Keselowski) ruffled a whole lot of feathers," Busch said. 

Of course the at-track reporters had to ask about the Hamlin-Logano exchange. 

"Each of you had a teammate involved in the feud of today's race, which was the 11 and the 22, where Denny got into Logano. Did you have a vantage point as to what happened? They've both had issues with each other. Do either of you have a viewpoint on that?"
            
Busch: I love Joey. I think he's a good little racer. He works really hard, too. I have no comment to it because I didn't see any of the first incident and I didn't see anything afterwards. I just heard the crowd. It's a little disheartening that we all can't just get along.
Keselowski: I'm watching, learning like you. Yeah, I didn't have a great vantage point of whatever happened there.

"What about the spin?"
Keselowski: I was too far behind it. I saw the replay. Obviously Joey didn't spin on his own. I don't know what led up to that. You only see one snapshot of what happened. Usually things like that are multiple laps in the making. Definitely didn't spin on his own. How about that?
Busch: Bob, tell us what you found out. What you got, Bob? (Referring to Bob Pockrass of Sporting News)
Keselowski: Bob's got the dirt.
Busch: Bob has the news. 
Pockrass: Logano said if they didn't have a problem before, they do now.
Busch: Live from the source. 

Keselowski managed to get in one more subtle dig. 

 "Brad, on the final restart, TV kept saying you spun the tires. You said you got ran over. Could you take us through that? Denny lined up behind you and Joey was behind him. It's possible they could have been having problems even before post race." 

Keselowski: Yeah, I mean, I haven't seen the replay. I just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone. Eventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot in the gas pedal. Made myself look like an ass. That was the deal. Never had another chance.

Will Logano and Hamlin take their grudges to Fontana? To paraphrase a line from Sam Hornish Jr. on Speed Center Sunday evening, will what happened at Bristol stay at Bristol? Will Busch and Keselowski butt heads again? The answers to those questions and more should give fans plenty to talk about until next Sunday, when the forced confinement of Bristol gives way to the wide-open spaces of Auto Club Speedway. Stay tuned! 

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