Message received: Hamlin still angry
FILE - In this March 22, 2013, file photo, driver Joey Logano gets out of his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 auto race 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 Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
HUMBLE, Texas – Roger Penske said Wednesday that Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin have exchanged text messages since their final-lap crash at Fontana last weekend that left Hamlin hospitalized with a fractured vertebra.
Penske said he’s also sent text messages to Hamlin, who is expected to miss at least six weeks. Penske and Logano, one of his drivers, were playing in the pro-am leading up to the PGA Tour’s Houston Open. Logano twice turned down interview requests.
Hamlin acknowledged he exchanged text messages with Logano. “It didn’t go well,” Hamlin told the Associated Press.
Hamlin was examined Tuesday by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, who determined he won’t need back surgery.
“I’ve texted back and forth with him and said that we’re thinking about him,” Penske said. “Obviously, we’re hoping for a speedy recovery. It’s never good to have a driver out for a period of time.”
He didn’t know what Logano and Hamlin said to one another in their text messages. The former Gibbs Racing teammates had a prickly relationship long before Sunday’s wreck. Logano replaced Tony Stewart at JGR in 2009, and signs of a rift between he and Hamlin surfaced after the Daytona 500, when the two exchanged barbs on Twitter.
Before Fontana, the two nearly came to blows at Bristol after Hamlin spun Logano while Logano chased Jeff Gordon for a late lead. Logano yelled into Hamlin’s car after the race, sparking a brief confrontation between their teams.
Then came the wreck in California, and the presumption that Logano had contact with Hamlin as payback. Penske doesn’t buy it.
“These guys are racing hard, and it’s the last lap and it’s just the way the cars got together,” Penske said. “The way Denny hit the wall was very unfortunate. … It’s never good to have a driver out for a period of time.”
NASCAR returns to action April 7 at Martinsville Speedway, and Penske said it’s time for everyone to “settle down.”
Penske said he’s never seen NASCAR more competitive, and the increased media scrutiny is making every incident and altercation between drivers more serious than it usually is.
“There’s a lot of noise about a lot of things that are said at these races,” Penske said. “People are at a high pitch and I think other people need to settle down and realize that’s the sport. We’re just going to have to keep our heads on.”
Penske said he didn’t know much about the personal history between Logano and Hamlin. He’s confident that the latest dustup and the public backlash won’t throw off Logano, who’s currently ninth in the Sprint Cup standings – one spot ahead of Hamlin.
“The fuel in the fire after Bristol created a lot of public noise,” Penske said. “But as I said, that’s the environment we’re in right now. He’s still the same guy we hired six months ago, and I’m 100 percent confident that he’s going to be able to execute when he needs to be at the highest level.
“At the end of the season, we’ll see where everybody is. But I have high hopes for his success. Obviously, what we can do is provide him with a car and a team that can execute it.”
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