DOVER, Del. ‚ÄĒ As laps wound down in Stage 2 of Sunday‚Äôs NASCAR Playoffs Round of 12 opener at Dover International Speedway, Joey Logano raced leaders Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson hard ‚ÄĒ as to be expected.
Except that the No. 22 Team Penske Ford was ‚Ä¶ checks notes ‚Ä¶ 24 laps down at the time.
Sheer moments before cars took the green flag for Dover‚Äôs 100th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, Logano was sent behind the wall and to the garage with a busted rear axle. The defending series champion‚Äôs day was essentially over before it began, but the 22 group decided to put the car back on the track to scrape together any points available.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre out there racing. I‚Äôve got to race. Here‚Äôs the situation ‚Ä¶ there‚Äôs four or five cars that I could possibly catch. That‚Äôs five points. I‚Äôm in by zero points right now, so we‚Äôve better get ‚Äôem all,‚ÄĚ Logano said on pit road following a 34th-place finish, 25 laps down. ‚ÄúSo, when you think of that, I‚Äôve got to try to get every car I possibly can. I‚Äôm still racing. I ran as hard as I could this whole race. Don‚Äôt have anything to show for it, but I ran it as if we were on the lead lap and did everything we possibly did to be better.‚ÄĚ
Hamlin, who led a race-high 218 laps from the pole en route to a fifth-place finish, felt Logano racing him as hard as he did impeded his shot at the win. Naturally, the viewpoint of Logano ‚ÄĒ Hamlin‚Äôs former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate that he‚Äôs had issues with in the past ‚ÄĒ differs from how he saw things.
‚ÄúMake up position? He‚Äôs 24 laps down. That‚Äôs the most idiotic statement I‚Äôve ever heard,‚ÄĚ Hamlin said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre battling for the end of the stage. It‚Äôs not your day, you had bad luck. We get it. But why? I don‚Äôt understand that at all. That‚Äôs just a stupid statement by an idiot. ‚Ä¶
‚Äú ‚Ä¶ Probably shouldn‚Äôt call Joey an idiot. He‚Äôs not an idiot. But that was just a bad choice to say that he‚Äôs fighting for something. He‚Äôs not fighting for anything, he‚Äôs just running around the race track. Stay in one lane. Maybe the high lane, because nobody‚Äôs up there. Get the laps over with. Get the race over with and go home and get ready for Talladega to try to win that race.‚ÄĚ
Man, that seems reasonable, too.
Perhaps it just comes down personal ideology, then. Drive hard no matter what, or drive hard no matter what ‚Ä¶ as long as it doesn‚Äôt screw anybody else over.
Especially if it might come back to haunt you.
‚ÄúI get it. Everyone races hard,‚ÄĚ Hamlin said. ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre one lap down I get it. Even two, just not 24. It frustrates me because it‚Äôs just a lack of philosophy. All he did was piss some people off and what did he really gain? He didn‚Äôt gain anything. But he just pissed off some guys that he‚Äôs racing with now. So now we‚Äôre just going to race him extra hard, and for what? Because he didn‚Äôt want to go 26 laps down?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt remains to be seen (if Logano shot himself in the foot). Nobody‚Äôs going out there maliciously trying to screw over Joey. I don‚Äôt think anyone‚Äôs going to do that but I‚Äôm just saying that through these playoffs, you can‚Äôt make enemies. You‚Äôve got to have give and take. It‚Äôs those deposits and withdrawals that I talked about with (Kevin) Harvick earlier this year. You gotta be able to say thank you. Thanks for that spot. ‚Ä¶ I don‚Äôt want to hear it‚Äôs just about racing. That‚Äôs not smart. Being smart is a part of racing, too. Not just skill.‚ÄĚ
Expect cooler heads to prevail over the next two weeks ‚ÄĒ and Logano to still be in contention despite being on the bubble. Five combined wins at Talladega and Kansas point to him moving on to the Round of 8.
But remember this moment.
Martinsville looms ‚ÄĒ and something about Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing and the fall playoff race at ‚ÄúThe Paperclip‚ÄĚ rings a certain bell.