Martin Truex Jr. dominated a boring NASCAR Cup race Sunday at Martinsville, leading 464 of 500 laps â including the last 241 laps, in which he pulled away from the field on no fewer than eight restarts, which can sometimes produce some sort of racing âdrama,â but not this time.
It was an impressive victory for Truex, who earned a berth in NASCARâs âchampionshipâ race next month at Homestead, Fla., but you can hardly blame anyone for clicking to another channel the second Truex took the checkered flag. (Full disclosure: I did.)
But I, and many of you, apparently missed the big âentertainmentâ of the day: the unsatisfying post-race âfightâ between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, both of whom are in contention for the championship. You can watch the âraw footageâ here.
Not much to see, is it? Hamlin and Logano have a heated discussion, which ends with Logano stiff-arming Hamlin on pit road. And then, all hell breaks loose, with crews for each driver intervening and Hamlin getting in a little overhand right before he was knocked to the ground by one of Loganoâs crew members.
Hamlin was pulled up, then away from Logano, who gave him the evil eye and said something before going after Hamlin (with several officials and team members conveniently standing in between the two). The awesome Hockeyfights.com would refuse to rate the fight.
The reaction turned out to be bigger than the scuffle itself. Hamlin v. Logano became a talking point, in part because the race was so one-sided, and because fighting always seems to remind people of how rowdy NASCAR used to be. Hamlin finished fourth, and Logano eighth, and both held onto spots for the championship race. Neither likely would have caught Truex.
âLike Joey does, he does a little push and runs away,â Hamlin said of Logano on the NBC Sports Network.
Logano said of the on-track clash between him and Hamlin: âIt ruined our day, our shot to win for sure. . . . Itâs frustrating [that] thereâs a lot of passion out there.â
What? A championship is on the line, Joey! There should be passion! But anyway.
NASCAR does not condone fighting, or scrapping, or tussling, or whatever that was. Steve OâDonnell, the executive vice president and chief racing development office for NASCAR, said on his weekly SiriusXM radio show Monday that penalties might be handed down. And one later was, with Team Penske tire technician Dave Nichols suspended for one race.
âWe know emotions are going to run high, especially at this time of the season,â OâDonnell said. âWe donât encourage it, but we know the drivers are going to address each other after the race when they have an incident. Then unfortunately, instead of breaking up a fight, I think what we saw was an aggressive move by a crew member.â
OâDonnell added: âI think in this case, you have a crew member who was maybe trying to break it up, but certainly an aggressive move we viewed on our part and unfortunately, weâll probably have to take some action to address that today or tomorrow.â
It was something to talk about, something for NASCAR.com to splatter on its cover page. Back in the old days, the animosity would have been tricked out for a whole week, but there is no chance that the clash between the two will escalate. The last MENCS Cup is on the line. Too much is at $take for sponsors now.
Back in the old days, purses were so modest that poor finishes barely covered tire bills, and damage to a car could cost a lot of money to fix. Furthermore, racing used to be more dangerous, so an on-track clash could lead to an injury, or injuries, or something even worse. Now they throw water at each other.
Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Logano (Team Penske) drive for two of the most powerful and deep-pocketed teams in the sport. They are motivated to win a title â Loganoâs second in a row, Hamlinâs first â but they wonât go broke or lose their jobs if they donât win it all.
The rough-and-tumble stuff used to make NASCAR fun, but the drivers donât have the backgrounds to know how to fight any more, and when they do fight, the scuffle usually has a feeble outcome, because the combatants donât have to pay a real price, literally or figuratively.