A RECURRING theme in NASCAR is a resident villain. Drivers in "black hats" have included Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Say hello to the 2013 villain, Joey Logano: "Here's our black-hat selection, Mr. Logano. What size do you wear?"
The Connecticut native seems like a nice, young guy. But there is a sense among some in NASCAR that Logano, 22, is spoiled. Starting at age 6, his racing was financed by his father, Tom.
A couple of years ago, after encountering a problem racing with Kevin Harvick, Logano said it was clear who wears the firesuit in the Harvick family, a clear reference to Harvick's wife, DeLana. Logano came off as impertinent, offering such a disparaging remark about an established racer such as Harvick.
In Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Calif., Logano and Denny Hamlin were staging a riveting late-race duel, the kind that would help fill seats in the stands if there were more of them. Eventually, Logano and Hamlin made contact in their cars. Logano slid into the outside wall, while Hamlin's car careened nose-first at high speed into an interior wall with no SAFER barrier.
Hamlin suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra in his lower back. The seven-time Chaser doesn't need surgery, but will be sidelined 6 weeks, thereby eliminating him from championship Chase contention this year. Drivers cannot get points unless they start a race.
Asked to react to the accident immediately after the race, Logano, unaware of Hamlin's injury, replied, "He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets."
Following the previous race at Bristol, Tenn., an enraged Logano went after Hamlin in his car. Logano was upset that Hamlin had bumped his car during the race. Remember, a year ago these two were teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. Wouldn't you have paid to sit in on those team meetings?
After the California crash, it was Tony Stewart's turn to be angry. He parked his car near Logano's and threw a punch at Logano while he was standing next to his car. "[Logano] is nothing but a little, rich kid that's never had to work in his life," Stewart said.
Stewart's complaint was that Logano blocked him on a late restart. Evidently Stewart forgot a race last year at Talladega where his late blocking attempt caused a multicar crash.
Defending Logano, in his first season with Penske Racing, Roger Penske said, "[Stewart] is one of the best blockers in the business. I've watched the video, and there's nothing that should be an issue." Penske also told the Associated Press, "What happened at the end wasn't anything more than hard racing. I think [Logano] is going to go down as one of the greatest drivers to ever race."
With Penske's success in racing, he knows great drivers when he sees them. However, Logano, now in his fifth Cup season, has won two races.
John Darby, competition director for the Cup series, said on a Tuesday conference call there wouldn't be any penalties for the California developments.
"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," the old-school Darby said. "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."
I don't think Logano intentionally wrecked Hamlin: It was one of them racin' deals, as they say in NASCAR, two drivers racing hard for the win. With NASCAR taking its traditional Easter break this weekend, racing fans will have to wait until April 7 at Martinsville to see what happens with Logano-Stewart.
Meanwhile, Brian Vickers and Elliot Sadler, who drive in the Nationwide Series for Gibbs Racing, are the leading contenders to fill in for Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota.