LONG POND, Pa. _ At the beginning of the 2010 season, NASCAR vowed to let the drivers police themselves and the ‘Have at it, boys’ mentality was born. Since that revelation, a feud has erupted nearly every week in the NASCAR garage and this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway was no different.
As Denny Hamlin cruised to his fourth victory of the season and fourth win at Pocono, the fireworks were heating up on pit road. Following an incident that set up a green-white-checkered finish, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick exchanged harsh words on pit road as Harvick’s crew and Logano’s father got involved. In the end, Hamlin celebrated in Victory Lane, Harvick simply smiled and the Loganos were called to the NASCAR hauler.
The day started with a torrential downpour that delayed the start of the race by two hours, but once the action got underway the fans that stuck out the weather were in for a treat. Pole-sitter Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Hamlin all took turns at the lead as the 43-car field paced itself for a long 500-mile event.
With the laps clicking away, the concern up and down pit road became fuel mileage. Just past the halfway point, teams began preparing for a fuel mileage race by telling their drivers to save fuel and figuring out when would be the best time to hit pit road.
When the caution flew on Lap 159, the leaders stayed out while ten cars came down pit road for tires and fuel. Figuring they would be good on gas to the end, these cars restarted in the back of the pack as the leaders raced knowing they would have to stop one more time for at least a splash of gas to get them to the finish.
The leaders took their turn down pit road when Jamie McMurray backed his car into the Turn 1 fence on Lap 166. As the leaders hit pit road, those cars that came in one caution earlier moved to the front of the pack, jumbling the running order.
Restarting with just under 30 laps to go, the action was just heating up as those cars that had been fast all day tried to work their way back to the front and those now out front tried to conserve fuel, but stay out front at the same time.
Thanks to a fast race car and a little help from a caution flag on Lap 176, Denny Hamlin was able to move from 15th to eighth when the race went back to green on Lap 178. Making aggressive moves on the restart, Hamlin set his sights on the front. Taking the lead from Sam Hornish Jr. – who pitted with the early group – on Lap 188, Hamlin never looked back.
As Hamlin came to the white flag, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick got together racing for the fifth spot to bring out the caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Hamlin could almost see victory, but he would have to endure one more chaotic restart and hold off teammate Kyle Busch – one of the best in the business when it comes to restarts.
Not only was he able to hold off the charge behind him, Hamlin was able to drive away from the pack. Once the caution flew for a big wreck on the white flag lap, Hamlin secured his fourth victory and moved to third in the series standings.
“We just conserved for most of the day,” Hamlin said. “I wrote it on the dash because I knew I was going to have to use it all at the end. Races don’t come easy when you run first or third and you get the win at the end. There’s always a wrench that kind of gets thrown in there and messes up your whole plan.”
For Hamlin’s teammate Joey Logano, that wrench came in the form of Kevin Harvick. Following their contact on the track, Logano pulled his car over at Harvick’s ride as the No. 29 crew was standing by its side. The two drivers emerged from their cars and the crew got involved to keep them separated. As Logano yelled over at Harvick, the teams began pushing and shoving, with Tom Logano eventually getting involved as well.
“I don’t know what his deal is with me,” Logano said. “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the fire suit in his family and tells him what to do, so it’s probably not his fault.
“I don’t know what I’ve ever done to piss him off, but he’s apparently stupid,” he added. “He needs to know how I feel, and no one lets me go over and talk to the guy. You get out of the car, you want to talk to the guy and there’s 6,000 crew members around that you can’t go up and talk to him. I don’t know how you’re supposed to settle something if you can’t talk to the guy, but there’s no talking to him anyway.”
Harvick brushed off the incident as a racing deal, while crew chief Gil Martin was upset with how the young driver handled himself on pit road.
“He gassed his car up at it and tried to pin our guys up against the car,” Martin said. “That’s the thing that got us most mad. I’m good with [Joey] being upset because they had an altercation on the track, but the moment he gasses his car up and tries to pin our guys up against the car, I’m not okay with that at all. NASCAR needs to do something about that, because if he wants to fight and wrestle around with Kevin, the gate’s right over there. They can go fight and wrestle all they want outside, but when you start trying to pin our guys against the car, that’s not right.”
Logano and his father were called to the NASCAR hauler following the incident. The biggest issue NASCAR had with the situation was not what Joey did on pit road, but what his father Tom did as they went into the garage. Walking away from the post-race incident, TNT’s Ralph Sheheen attempted to interview Logano, but Joey’s dad shoved the pit reporter out of the way and nearly to the ground.
This is not Tom Logano’s first run-in with NASCAR either. Last year he had his NASCAR credential pulled after flipping off Greg Biffle on pit road following a Nationwide Series race in Fontana. Following Sunday’s incident, Logano’s hard card was not pulled.
This was not the only feud of the day, however, as Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger got into on the last lap, triggering a massive eight car pile up to end the race. Getting a huge run off the first turn, Kahne looked under Allmendinger, but Allmendinger threw a block.
That move sent Kahne into the grass and up across the track into the path of Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. As Martin and Biffle plowed into Kahne’s car it was sent airborne and nearly over the wall as the rest of the field scrambled to avoid the wreckage.
“I don’t know what AJ was doing there,” Kahne said. “I don’t ever really talk to him much, but you can bet I will be talking to him this week.”
Following the race, Allmendinger admitted his mistake, saying the incident put a damper on a solid day for his team.
“I am not really sure what happened,” Allmendinger said. “Kasey had such a run on me and I went to defend. By the time I defended he was in the grass. That is my bad. I feel bad about that, I really do. It is what it is though.”
Biffle took one of the hardest hits in the incident and was not happy with Allmendinger for causing it.
“I don’t know what his deal is,” Biffle said. “He totally caused that whole thing. If he is driving that blue car with the 43 on the side that put Kasey into the grass then yeah, it is on him. He ran him down on the grass. You can’t run a guy down on the grass. You can’t run your teammate down onto the grass. That is horrible. He could have backed out of that before he put him down like that.”
NASCAR asked for this kind of action and so far in 2010 the drivers are delivering. We’ve had Jeff Gordon upset with Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards upset with Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick upset with Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch upset with Denny Hamlin, and now Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger are getting in the mix. Now keep in mind, this is only the 14th race of the season and things are just heating up.
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