CHARLOTTE_ Perhaps the highlight of last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race was when Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin had a disagreement about a piece of real estate coming off Turn 2. With ten laps to go in the final segment, Busch got a run through the corner and looked to make a move on the outside of his teammate for the lead. Hamlin shut the door, forcing Busch to check up and he caught the wall. The incident killed their momentum and allowed Kurt Busch to make the winning pass.
Clearly upset with the way his teammate raced him, Busch vowed to “kill” Hamlin over the radio, parked his wrecked race car behind Hamlin’s hauler and stormed inside to await the confrontation. After meeting with each other for over 20 minutes under the supervision of team owner Joe Gibbs, the two emerged promising the incident was behind them.
Judging by their comments Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, this incident is all but behind them.
The overall feeling emerging from Busch’s comments seemed to indicate he was mainly surprised at how Hamlin raced him that night. He figured teammates were teammates regardless of the situation, Hamlin on the other hand did not agree.
“Apparently it was the All-Star Race and it kind of surprised me the way my teammate wanted to race me,” Busch said. “Of course, I was heated after the incident. It surprised me and I wouldn’t have expected my teammate to have raced me that way, but he’s the leader, he’s got the race track and I now understand that.”
“I definitely wouldn’t change anything that I would do – and nobody in my position would. I challenge anyone to be in that position and change the way I drove,” Hamlin said. “He was never there, there was never a hole for him to fit in. He has a gas pedal and a brake just like I do. He could choose to check up and pass me in the next corner or put his car in the fence like what happened.”
For Busch, his hopes were to squash the incident as soon as possible, while Hamlin sees this as the continuation of a trend specific to Kyle Busch.
“I went straight to the hauler to handle it instead of letting things stew and get worse,” Busch said. “I wanted to get it done and get it over with right there and move forward. I feel like that’s what we did. His reception was, it’s the All-Star Race, it’s every man for himself and I wasn’t under that impression going into the race. That’s why I was surprised at the fact of what happened. We can all talk about what happened in the past, but you get stuck on that and you can’t build the future.”
“Kyle springs this stuff upon himself and gets mad at the media for asking him questions about his blow ups and stuff,” Hamlin said. “He does it to himself. I don’t want to be a part of it. Any drama he wants to create is on him. Anything he says on the radio, it’s on him. All I’m going to say – and then I’m going to be done with it – is each year I think Kyle is going to grow out of it and he just doesn’t. Until he puts it all together that’s when he’ll become a champion. Right now he just doesn’t have himself all together.”
That, however, was not the last Hamlin had to say on the topic. Hamlin’s bluntness and confidence set the tone for a very different relationship between the JGR teammates moving forward.
Talking about his leadership role with JGR, Hamlin said when Tony Stewart left the organization he knew it was up to him to step up and become the lead driver with the team. “I didn’t say that I was going to take over this team or be the leader of this team, but somebody’s got to be the leader – it ain’t going to be Kyle,” Hamlin said with a smile.
Hamlin continued to essentially throw his teammate under the bus throughout his media availability. When asked what he did wrong, Hamlin seemed perplexed by Busch’s explanation of why he was so mad.
“Through talking to him, he just felt like I took his line away. His line, the guy behind me. I’m sorry,” Hamlin said with a skeptical look on his face. He went on to say, “…anybody would say, ‘No, you’re not teammates (with 10 laps to go in the All-Star Race). You’re not racing for points. You don’t want to wreck each other.’ But I didn’t wreck him. He just didn’t let up when he probably should have.”
The stark difference between the comments and the demeanor of the two teammates showed while they contend they are committed to moving past this, neither will race each other the same moving forward – at least for the time being. Busch seemed perturbed by the fact Hamlin changed the way he typically races him, while Hamlin seemed to take issue with the fact Busch expected him to just move over. These two will eventually get over this and emerge stronger on the other side, but right now things are tense for sure over at Joe Gibbs Racing.
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