Hamlin: Logano has a target on his back
Denny Hamlin doesn’t blame Joey Logano for his injury but is still upset with his former teammate for the wreck that left Hamlin with a fracture in his lower back, forcing him to miss an estimated five races.
Hamlin suffered the injury when his car hit the inside wall at Auto Club Speedway after Hamlin and Logano, who were teammates last year at Joe Gibbs Racing, wrecked while battling for the lead on the final lap of the March 24 race.
“(I do not blame him) for the particular injury; I do for the wreck,” Hamlin told a group of reporters on Wednesday. “I think the injury was circumstantial. For what happened, I think it’s just a product of wrecking on a 2-mile speedway, you risk getting hurt.”
The accident occurred when Logano, who was racing in the lower groove, drifted up into Hamlin and the right rear of Logano’s car hit Hamlin’s car. Logano went into the outside wall, while Hamlin went spinning toward the inside wall.
The inside wall did not have a SAFER Barrier.
“(This accident was) a guy seeing that I was going to get the better of him that week and he wasn’t going to let that happen and he hit the gas and was going to hit something,” Hamlin said.
“That’s my opinion of what happened because I was there and I was in the incident.”
Mark Martin, who was supposed to be off this weekend, will drive the JGR No. 11 car in place of Hamlin at Martinsville Speedway. Vickers, who drives for JGR in the Nationwide Series, will drive the JGR No. 11 until Hamlin returns.
Hamlin and Logano have exchanged texts, but they did nothing to appease Hamlin.
“(His) was a ‘Hey, hope you get back in the car soon,’” Hamlin said. “(It was) not, ‘Hey, sorry I did this, or ‘sorry we got together, I made a mistake and drove into the corner.’
“It wasn’t that. It was just, ‘Hope you feel better.’
“My response is that, ‘Why didn’t we just let things go? It was over at Bristol.’”
The Logano-Hamlin rivalry dates back to February when Hamlin criticized Logano for constantly switching lanes in the draft during the Daytona 500. Hamlin sarcastically called his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate a “genius” on Twitter.
Then in the March 17 race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Hamlin spun out Logano as they battled for second. Logano confronted Hamlin after the race to talk about the incident.
That likely led to the way Logano raced Hamlin the following week at California. After the race and before knowing that Hamlin was injured, Logano said that he was trying to win the race and make sure that Hamlin did not win.
“How is it not intentional?” Hamlin said. “It’s not like he got loose because I took air off of him or anything like that. I saw him getting closer, I moved up the track. He came in closer, I moved up the track. He just was going to keep going until he ran into me.
“Whatever happened after that, I’m sure he didn’t mean for me to wreck and to get hurt, but he meant to run into us, there’s no doubt. He didn’t get loose with the back, he drove into us with the front.”
Hamlin said he did not think Logano should be penalized and that other drivers upset with Logano will take care of things on the track.
“My 100 percent opinion is he shouldn’t be penalized,” Hamlin said. “This is a self-policing sport. From this point on, he has to do deal with all the repercussions.
“How he’s raced guys the last few weeks, that all comes back around. … It doesn’t need to come from NASCAR.”
Logano should know that it won’t be easy going forward, Hamlin said.
“When drivers take it upon themselves to take someone out, they know from that point on they have a huge bull’s eye,” Hamlin said. “He probably needs to switch sponsors with Juan Pablo (Montoya, who is sponsored by Target) for at least two months.”
Hamlin indicated that his feud with Logano is not over.
“Nothing is ever fair, but I can assure you that as long as things stay the way they are he’ll have a tough time passing us from here on out,” Hamlin said. Sporting News