Philadelphia, PA – While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes its first break of the season this week, Joey Logano might want to spend his time off hiring a bodyguard.
Logano probably will need all the protection he can get when the series returns to action the first weekend in April at Martinsville.
For the second race in a row, tempers flared after the checkered flag had waved, and Logano was in the middle of it both times. Logano had a heated exchange with Denny Hamlin last week at Bristol and then a brawl with Tony Stewart on Sunday in Fontana, Calif.
It's safe to say Logano is not the most popular driver in the Sprint Cup garage right now, and his enemy list could grow more if he continues to be a nuisance on and off the track.
In perhaps the best finish in a Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Logano had a fierce battle with his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Kyle Busch on the final lap. Logano and Hamlin ran side-by-side for the top spot before they made contact and spun in turn 4. Busch drove to the outside of them and went on to victory.
While Logano managed to finish third, despite scraping the outside wall, Hamlin skidded down the track and then slammed hard into the inside retaining wall. His car came up off the ground and spun around after it ricocheted off the wall.
At Bristol, Hamlin hit the back of Logano and spun him out late in that race. The two later had words with each other followed by a shoving match between both of their teams. Hamlin and Logano then traded jabs on Twitter.
The last-lap incident between Hamlin and Logano at Fontana wasn't payback. It was two drivers racing hard for the win.
"I was going for the win; that's what you've got to do," Logano said.
Hamlin climbed out of his car under his own power but then laid down on the track, as safety personnel quickly tended to him. Hamlin was later airlifted to a nearby hospital. He remained hospitalized on Monday after being diagnosed with a compression fracture in his lower back.
"I just want to go home," Hamlin tweeted on Monday.
Hamlin's status for Martinsville is unknown at this time. He will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of the Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates later this week. His injury might require surgery.
Logano's latest run-in with Hamlin was the least of his problems, though. Stewart is ready to have at it with Logano more so than Hamlin.
After Sunday's race concluded, Stewart got into a physical altercation with Logano on pit road. Stewart was furious with Logano for blocking him multiple times during the final restart on lap 189.
"If he ever turns down across in front of me again, I don't care what lap it is, he won't make it through the other end of it," Stewart said. "I'm tired of these guys doing that stuff, especially from a kid that's been griping about everybody else, and then he does that the next week. He sent Denny to the hospital and screwed our day up. He's talked the talk, but he hasn't walked the walk yet. He's always got his crew guys walking the walk for him."
Stewart, who ran behind Logano in the inside line during the restart, attempted to pass Logano by dipping down onto the apron.
"Tony was just upset about a restart that I was racing him really hard on the bottom, trying to make sure I protected my spot," Logano said. "What I was doing actually was racing the 18 (Busch) on the restart, and he was spinning his tires.
"The rule is you can't beat him to the start/finish line, so I am pedaling it, which gave Tony the run to go underneath me. I wanted to block that, because I knew if he put me three-wide, that would be the end of my race, and I wouldn't win. I was smart enough to realize that. Then I had to just do what I had to do to get to the front and try to win the race."
During their post-race confrontation, Stewart pushed Logano around, while Logano threw a water bottle at him before crew members from both teams intervened. Stewart later said that he's "going to bust (Logano's rear)."
"Smoke" (Stewart's nickname) vs. "Sliced Bread" (the byname for Logano). Who do you think is going to win that fight?
"I'm just tired of watching these kids whine, and then they sit there and act tough when their crew guys get in the middle of it," Stewart said. "If NASCAR wants us to let the guys have at it, it shouldn't be any different than hockey. Let the guys have at it, and then when one guy goes to the ground, it's over."
Logano said he would contact Stewart in hopes of resolving the matter. When Stewart was asked if he'll accept Logano's call, he replied, "Hell no. If he wants to talk about it, we'll talk about it. After he threw the water bottle at me like a little girl, we'll go at it now."
Expect the drama to continue at Martinsville.