Logano better watch his back

Joey Logano had better bring a tank to Martinsville Speedway on
April 7.

After the news that Denny Hamlin will be sidelined for about six
weeks with injuries sustained from a last-lap wreck with Logano in
Sunday’s Auto Club 400, there will be no shortage of drivers
willing to hand out a little frontier justice – garage
style.

On Tuesday, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby ruled
“no harm, no foul” after the incident between Logano and Hamlin
that ultimately shot the No. 11 Toyota into the pit road wall.

“It was the last lap of the race and the last time they
were both going to see Turns 3 and 4,” Darby said.
“They were side by side. And everything that great
competitors do; if somebody was of the mindset to retaliate, they
probably would have been lined up nose to tail to start with and
somebody would have drove into the other car and spun them
around.

“But in this case, that is so far from the opposite that
it never even crossed anybody’s mind that I’m aware of that paid
attention to the race, that that was part of it.”

But Logano’s actions and post-race words suggest
otherwise.

And while one hopes that the 22-year-old’s comments would
have been toned down considerably had he known the severity of
Hamlin’s condition, it doesn’t erase the fact that
following the race Logano said, “Denny Hamlin was not going
to win that race, no,” and “he probably shouldn’t have
done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets.”

It’s ironic that Hamlin’s criticizing the Generation 6 car
garnered a greater punitive response from NASCAR than Logano’s
putting a driver out of commission.

Although Hamlin got the worst of it on Sunday as well, that
wasn’t the only incident on Logano’s expanding rap
sheet. Logano ran Kurt Busch down onto the grass earlier in the
race. And on the final restart, he did the same to Tony Stewart,
sending the three-time champ and former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate
over the edge and onto pit road to confront Logano after the
race.



 

“Dumb little son-of-a-(expletive) runs us clear down to
the infield,” Stewart said. “He wants to (expletive)
about everybody else and he’s the one who drives like a little
(expletive). I’m going to bust his ass.”

Whether it’s the sense of entitlement on or off the track
— as Smoke alluded to when he referred to Logano as
“just a little rich kid that has never had to work in his
life” — in the past five years the current Penske racer
attracted the ire of NASCAR’s top bad asses from Stewart to
Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.

Arguably, Harvick dumped Logano in the 2010 June Pocono Cup race
to teach him a lesson following an earlier dust-up in a Nationwide
Series race at Bristol. His incident with Harvick was
well-documented and resulted in Logano’s line
“it’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the
firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.”

Two months later at Michigan, Logano had a similar post-race
run-in with Newman when the veteran told the then 20-year-old
“learn how to drive” and “learn how to control
your car.” But perhaps what was most prophetic from Newman
was “you’ve got one coming.”

It looks as if Newman will have to get in line.

Considering Hamlin’s skill level at Martinsville Speedway,
where he’s won four of the past 10 Cup races, it’s
criminal that he’ll be sitting out April 7. What’s even
more difficult to fathom is that Hamlin, who has qualified for
every Chase for the Sprint Cup since he’s been eligible in
2006 – the only racer other than Jimmie Johnson to make that
claim – will not be a contender for the driver’s
championship this season.

Sure, there’s a short list of candidates who can
substitute in the interim whether it’s Elliott Sadler or
Brian Vickers — both drivers already in the Toyota camp. But
neither competitor can boast Hamlin’s resume or his talent
quite frankly.

And neither can Logano.

In the “Boys have at it” era, the garage will indeed continue to
police itself. If Logano expects to avoid trouble over the next few
months, he’s going to need some mad skills to outrun the
competition because right now the target on his car will be larger
than the sponsor logo on the No. 42 Chevy.

A little humility could go a long way. As of Monday, Logano had
not called on Hamlin to apologize. That might be a good place to
start if he has any desire of joining the Sprint Cup fraternity.
Otherwise, Logano will continue to find himself in the crosshairs
– starting two weeks from now at Martinsville.

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