MARTINSVILLE, Va. – A late-race battle between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano turned into a full-on, post-race brawl between the pair and their crews on pit road after Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin and Logano were scrapping for position on lap 458 when Hamlin squeezed Logano up into the outside wall exiting turn four, leading to a major right-side tire rub on Logano’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang.
The defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion spun moments later in turn two with a flat left-rear tire, drawing the 10th of 11 cautions in the race. Logano came down pit road for repairs but never lost a lap and stayed in position to rally at the end.
Hamlin ended up finishing fourth after leading the first 30 laps from the pole, while Logano rebounded to an eighth-place finish that kept him above the elimination cut line heading into next weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
However, after the race was when things got dicey.
Hamlin and Logano engaged in a feisty conversation after climbing from their race cars, which led to Logano giving a push off Hamlin’s right shoulder as he began to walk away.
Hamlin quickly went to follow after Logano, and moments later the situation escalated into pushing and shoving between the two drivers and a myriad of crew members from both the Nos. 11 and 22 teams, with Hamlin ending up getting shoved to the ground in the chaos.
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“We were having a discussion; everything was civil, and then Joey does … he does a little push and then runs away,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “So that’s Joey. Scared ‑‑ he said, ‘Do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m here,’ but then he runs away.
“I got close (to him) off of turn four. It looks like we got together, and it looks like collateral damage,” Hamlin added, referencing the lap-458 incident. “He blew a tire. I mean, he would probably say, ‘oh, short track racing.'”
Logano didn’t speak to TV or reporters until after changing in his team hauler, but did admit afterward that perhaps his shove to Hamlin’s shoulder wasn’t the best course of action.
He did, however, defend his initial frustration in regards to the incident that ended with his car in the outside wall.
“I just wanted to talk to him about it and, yeah, I was pretty frustrated,” said Logano. “He just came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day, or at least our shot at the win. We probably weren’t going to beat the 19 (Truex), but we had a top five (car) for sure, and we just were able to survive there at the very end.
“I don’t really know what happened, because once he started hitting me he didn’t lift; he just kept finishing me off. We ran each other fine all day, so I don’t know,” Logano added. “I don’t really know what happened. He just kind of sent me up there and kept on going with it. It cut down my tires and left fender rubs everywhere.
“At the end of the day, we still got a decent finish out of it and some points in the stages at least, but I’m a little frustrated with the situation. I wanted to talk to him about it, and maybe I shouldn’t have shoved him at the end. It may have escalated it a little bit more,” Logano noted. “It’s frustrating. There’s a lot of passion out there.”
Logano leaves Martinsville on the bubble, 14 points clear of elimination, while Hamlin is 24 points above the cut line and second in points – only marginally safer with two races to go.
That means that the intensity to try and lock into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway will continue to be on display over the next two weeks, just as it was on Sunday night.
Logano spoke to that point briefly at the post-race media bullpen.
“It’s just the playoffs. It just happens,” Logano said. “It’s part of it. Emotions run high.”
For his part, Hamlin was quick to note that he wasn’t worried about talking things down as he left pit road after his television interview.
“I don’t need to find him,” Hamlin said before walking off.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs continue Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway.