It’s no surprise TV producers found the row on the racetrack between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin on the Lap 157 restart more exciting than Carl Edwards leading the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Phoenix.
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Both were inside the top five when Hamlin tapped into Keselowski, who retaliated by hitting Hamlin twice. The second contact caused Hamlin to spin.
This was the view from Keselowski’s car:
“On the last restart there, Denny got into the back of me and pushed me up the track,” Keselowski said. “I was going to return the favor. When he did it to me, I saved it. When I did it to him, he didn’t save it. We just got into a pushing match. I don’t really don’t hold any grudges. I don’t know why he wanted to do that. But whatever, that’s just how racing is, I guess.”
And Hamlin’s interpretation of the battle for top-five position?
“I got into him in the center of (Turns) 1 and 2,” said Hamlin, who finished 12th. “I don’t know if he got loose or something, but then after that he spun us.”
Keselowski, who finished fifth, doesn’t expect the rivalry to carry on beyond Saturday.
“To me, I was over it. I’m focused on running the No. 88 Junior Motorsports car and trying to run up front, chase down Carl and finish second in points. I haven’t put a lot of thought into (an ongoing contest), but apparently (Hamlin) has.”
Hamlin disagreed with Keselowski’s assessment. Unlike Keselowski, the Nationwide point standings mean nothing to Hamlin. And for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, this feud is far from over.
“I’m just happy that I signed up for next week’s Nationwide race, and you know in turn, there’s a lot of guys that owe him,” Hamlin said. “There’s a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they’re going to cash in. I’m just going to be the first to the pay window.”
Long after the race had ended, Hamlin found Keselowski in the Nationwide garage and the two had a civil, but animated, discussion. Hamlin didn’t feel any better after the talk, though, and said NASCAR officials had told him they plan to speak to Keselowski on Sunday morning before the Sprint Cup Series race.
Back in the motorhome lot, Hamlin approached NASCAR president Mike Helton for a brief conversation. When they were through, Helton headed into the motorhome of Dale Earnhardt Jr., car owner for Keselowski’s Nationwide team.
This isn’t the first time the two drivers have mixed it up on the track.
The rivalry ignited back in May 2008. With only a handful of laps remaining, Hamlin, who was upset that Keselowski was racing him too hard, retaliated and ran into his car under caution. Things escalated after the race when their crews scuffled in the pits after the checkered flag, leading to a unique situation in the post-race news conference as the two sat next to each other after finishing second and third.
“You throw a rock, I’m going to throw a concrete block,” Hamlin said during the tension-filled presser.
Things calmed down until the Nationwide Series race at Dover this September, when Keselowski wrecked Hamlin late.
With Keselowski landing a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride at Penske Racing for 2010, this feud is far from over.