Ceasefire holding at site of Hamlin-Logano uprising
By Seth Livingstone
NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Denny Hamlin's injured back has returned to normal, but the fracture between him and former teammate Joey Logano created a rift that might never completely heal.
Although it was a crash on the final lap of the Auto Club 400 that sidelined Hamlin for four weeks and part of a fifth, irreparably crippling his 2013 title hopes, it was an incident the previous week at Bristol Motor Speedway that ignited the flames.
Believing he was wrecked by Hamlin on Lap 349 of last year's Food City 500, Logano approached Hamlin's car immediately after the race, leading to a scuffle between Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing crew and Logano's Team Penske teammates.
Then came the fender banging on the final lap in California which sent Hamlin's car careening into the fence. Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in the crash and was airlifted to a local hospital.
Both drivers say they're trying to put the past in their rear view mirrors, but that's easier said than done.
"You can hold grudges all you want, but that's not going to make you any faster and not going to get you any closer to the championship," said Hamlin, after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for this Sunday's Food City 500.
"I'm bitter in ways. In other ways, it's been so long and there have been so many trials and tribulations between then and now. … I think I'm a better person now — and I think I'm a better driver."
Logano competed vigorously for the pole and qualified fourth for Sunday's race. He'll start alongside Matt Kenseth, the driver who replaced him at JGR last season.
"A year is a long time. It's over now. I feel like we've moved on," said Logano, who a year ago, tweeted a reference to Hamlin, calling him a "freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car" and "probably the worst teammate I ever had."
In retrospect, Logano termed the incident with Hamlin a "fiasco."
"We did that Coca-Cola Family commercial and all sat in a van for about three hours," Logano said. "I felt, by the end of it, we all got along well. … You're supposed to forgive and forget and that goes both ways, so we both knew what we had to do."
Even so, it's impossible for tensions not to linger. Words can hurt long after injuries heal and the physical therapy sessions are complete.
Friday at Bristol, Hamlin talked about his emotions after similar short-track experiences in the past.
"There are still those awkward moments (between drivers)," Hamlin said. "You've still got to go to the drivers' meeting and be right next to them, still got to part right next to them. You don't really say anything to them. You don't kill them with kindness. You kill them with silence.
"If they speak (to you) what do you say? How can you express how upset you are with someone without punching them? I don't know how you do that."
CASSILL IN A BACKUP
A broken rear axle housing sent Landon Cassill into the wall and scurrying for a back-up car after a hard hit late in Saturday'sfinal practice for the Food City 500.
Saturday's two practice sessions were otherwise free from serious incidents. Ryan Newman , Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, all in Chevrolets, topped the speed chart during the morning session with the fastest times of the day. Casey Mears (Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (Toyota) and Carl Edwards (Ford) turned the fastest laps in the early-afternoon session.
KESELOWSKI BARES SOUL
Sharing a personal story of a former colleague and roommate who committed suicide after failing to make his mark in racing was not something Brad Keselowski was sure he should do in his racing blog.
"My lawyers and agent said 'no' and my heart said 'yes' and I followed my heart," Keselowski said. "I pushed the ‘send' button before they could get too involved. I think it's important to (share) personal stories because there's so much going on in this garage at all times.
"The positive response — from fans and those inside the garage — has really meant a lot to me."
In his blog, Keselowski admits he had difficulty celebrating last year's victory at Charlotte in the wake of the suicide and that his personal celebrations tend to be muted. "When my team wins a race, it's always difficult for me to celebrate and really let my emotion all the way out," writes Keselowski, who won last week's KOBALT 400 and starts on the front row this week.
As of Saturday morning, the blog post "The Meaning of Winning" at www.bradracing.com had received 357 thumbs-ups and 28 thumbs-downs.
FAN VOTE SET TO BEGIN
Fan voting to select a driver to compete in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday, May 17 will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
Votes will be doubled when fans download and cast their ballots via the NASCAR Mobile App. Fans may also vote at NASCAR.com/SprintFanVote or by visiting the Sprint Experience in the midway at all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
The winner will be announced in Victory Lane on Friday, May 16 following the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Voting closes that night at 7 p.m.
To date, 30 drivers yet to win a qualifying race — including last year's fan vote winner Danica Patrick, rookies Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson as well as Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and AJ Allmendinger — are eligible. Fans are permitted an unlimited number of ballots in selecting the driver who will compete for the $1 million winner-take-all purse. The driver who wins the vote must also complete Sprint Showdown qualifying with a car in "raceable" condition.