Texas Motor Speedway

NASCAR Cup title contenders move on from Martinsville, look ahead to Texas 500 at TMS

Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. AP

It’s time to move on from Martinsville for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title contenders Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

That doesn’t mean that either has forgotten about last week’s postrace shoving match between the two. It’s just that their focus is on Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“We’re here at the race track, and we’re talking about it now,” said Hamlin, who is a three-time winner at TMS including the spring race. “Within 30 minutes when I go in there to work, it stops. That’s my full concentration. We go to every racetrack to win. This weekend is no different.”

But the Martinsville incident is still the talk in the NASCAR garage.

Both Hamlin, who has five wins this year and is in second in the standings, and Logano need to win Sunday to lock them into the championship round. Logano, the defending series champ, is fourth in points but will be without tire technician Dave Nichols Jr. on Sunday. Nichols drew a one-race suspension for his role in the altercation that starting with a Logano push, which was followed by Hamlin going after Logano and ended with Hamlin on the ground and crews from both teams involved.

It started on the track when the drivers got together. Hamlin said he was taking up as much space on the track as he could when he made contact with Logano and put him in the wall of the short track. The way Hamlin drove had everything to do with who was next to him.

“Absolutely I take into account who is racing beside me at all times,” Hamlin said. “I was not going to give one inch. I misjudged. The on-track stuff was definitely my fault. There was no intent to run into him or run him into the wall or anything like that. I put myself at pretty good risk there. I was just trying to use all the space I could. Certainly if it was a teammate or someone else beside me, really anyone, I probably don’t gas it up that soon or try and take up as much space.”

While Hamlin took blame for what happened on the track, Logano knows he could have handled the situation after the race differently.

“I probably shouldn’t have gone down there looking for an apology for something he probably wasn’t going to apologize for,” Logano said. “I let my emotions get the best of me. That was a mistake on my part. I probably didn’t handle that correctly. It doesn’t make what he did on the racetrack right. I think at the same time he’s probably going to play that card as much as he wants. He can run his mouth as much as he wants. I’m going to run my race.”

Joey Logano climbs into his car during practice for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Colin E. Braley AP

The incident also drew questions about the manhood of each driver.

Hamlin said as a man he’s not going to let anyone touch him. Logano’s response to that was that as a man he would have owned up to his mistake on the track and apologized, which Hamlin didn’t do after the race.

Hamlin believes things escalated in part because of Nichols as well as Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon’s inability to control his team. Logano stood by Gordon on Friday.

Hamlin said Logano is the type of driver who breeds incidents like the Martinsville one and that they both have different ways of thinking. As for Logano being able to get Hamlin flustered? Hamlin doesn’t see that happening.

“He’s not that smart,” Hamlin said.

That comment drew a laugh from Logano and the thought that Hamlin is playing head games.

“He can try,” Logano said. “He can try. I’m a little tougher than he thinks.”

If nothing else, Martinsville put an added spotlight on Sunday’s race at TMS. That makes TMS president Eddie Gossage’s job of selling the race an easy one. The drivers know that, too.

“There are probably pros and cons to it either way,” Logano said “It’s probably good for the sport. It gives lots of people things to talk about. As long at it doesn’t affect you and your race team I don’t think there are many negatives to it. I think our team is strong enough to withstand this media storm or whatever you want to call it. We can’t let something this small get to us. We all know better than that.”