NASCAR has always been a place where the most compelling storylines are ones you couldn’t make up, because on the race track, the truth is almost always stranger than fiction.
Last Sunday, Denny Hamlin turned Joey Logano late in the race at Bristol Motor Speedway, prompting an angry confrontation on pit road, followed by a war of words on Twitter.
Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, what happened between the two of them escalated to an entirely new level.
On the last lap of the Auto Club 400, Logano and Hamlin were racing for the lead heading into Turn 3, with Logano on the bottom lane and Hamlin up top. Logano got loose once, made contact with Hamlin and then drifted up and hit him again. This time, the two wrecked, Logano’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford going harmlessly into the outside retaining wall.
But Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota turned hard left and went head on into the inside retaining wall at the exit of Turn 4, hitting where there was no SAFER barrier. Hamlin’s car raised off the ground and while he was able to climb out, he collapsed on the pavement afterwards and was put on a stretcher and transported to the Infield Care Center and then a local hospital. He was reported as awake and alert afterwards.
As the two were crashing, Kyle Busch passed them for the victory, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. following second and taking over the points lead. Kurt Busch finished third, his second consecutive top-five finish, followed by Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
Dave Rogers, crew chief for Busch, said he was told that Hamlin was complaining of back pain, but it appeared that the trip to the hospital was precautionary and that Hamlin did not appear to be seriously injured.
Afterwards, Logano was unapologetic.
“We worked it last week,” Logano said. “He (Hamlin) probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets. And besides that, I think our Auto Club Ford was very strong all day. I was very happy with the car we had. We were super fast, led a lot of laps. Nothing to hang our head down about, that's for sure. We were very proud of that.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.