March 26, 2013

AUTO RACING: NASCAR issues no penalties

BY JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR chairman Brian France said Tuesday that the contact between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin as they battled for the win at California over the weekend was just the kind of throwback racing he expects out of his drivers and the new Gen-6 car.

click image to enlarge

Rescue workers tend to the wreckage of Denny Hamlin (11) after he collided with Joey Logano on the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday in Fontana, Calif. NASCAR is not penalizing Tony Stewart for scuffling with Joey Logano on pit road at California, and viewed the crash between Logano and Denny Hamlin as a racing incident.

AP

"I have said repeatedly, every minute, that contact, especially late in the race when you are going for a win, that's not only going to happen -- that's expected," France said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Both of them did exactly what I think you would do when you really, really want to win. Getting some contact, trying to race extra hard to win the race, that's what we're about."

NASCAR said it won't penalize Tony Stewart for scuffling with Logano after the race, and series officials saw nothing to indicate Logano or Hamlin were trying to intentionally wreck each other as they raced for the win. In addition, NASCAR officials have given no thought to policing blocking, which is what Logano did to Stewart on the final restart to trigger the post-race confrontation.

"There are no conversations internally inside of NASCAR to look at blocking as a violation or a penalty as some other forms of motorsports do," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said. "As good as the racing has been, as exciting as it's been, I don't know that we need to jump in the middle and screw it up."

Stewart parked his car near Logano's and angrily approached him after Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. There was some shoving, but crew members intervened before any punches landed. Logano threw a water bottle at Stewart.

Darby said the incident didn't escalate to a level where NASCAR had to take action.

"A few years ago we backed away from micromanaging drivers' emotions, you would hope in today's world that if somebody didn't win a race, they would be upset about it," Darby said. "I don't know that we've actually got a rule book that describes every push in the chest or kick in the shin. If two guys get into a helluva fight, we're going to have to react. But a couple of guys blowing off some steam and slapping at the air is not going to get anybody in a whole lot of trouble."

France noted that drivers are encouraged to show their emotion and settle disputes -- which is all Stewart was doing Sunday.

"We have no problem, and frankly encourage drivers to go up to one another to discuss whatever they think they need to that happened in the race," France said. "And then every once in a while there will be some emotions, and that's what happened Sunday and crews stepped in between them and we don't think it rose to some level of anything."

France said NASCAR will intervene when feuds go too far and when emotions run too high.

"We're not going to allow a boxing match to take place every time they have a disagreement," France said. "But on the other hand, we're not going to prevent the emotional exchanges that occur after a race. Everyone has the right to walk up to someone and say, 'What the? What happened there? What did you do that for?' And they explain themselves and usually work it out."

It remains to be seen where the Logano and Hamlin feud goes from here, although Sunday was viewed as a racing incident.

The two former teammates have feuded since the closing laps of the season-opening Daytona 500 and it escalated after contact from Hamlin sent Logano spinning into the wall two races ago at Bristol. Logano angrily confronted Hamlin after the race before being pulled away by crew members.

(Continued on page 2)

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