Logano justifies blocking of Stewart at Auto Club
by Rick Minter
Among the things Joey Logano did in the closing laps of the Auto Club 400 was bring out the A.J. Foyt-like beast in Tony Stewart.
When Stewart was growing up, one of his heroes was the legendary Foyt, who later became Stewart’s mentor as he followed in Foyt’s career tire tracks, racing any kind of car on any kind of track, almost always with great success. Stewart, like Foyt, became a team owner, fielding cars in several circuits and even owning the cars he drives in the Sprint Cup Series.
Stewart also is much like Foyt when it comes to speaking his mind and in handling what he perceives as disrespect from others.
On Sunday, Logano and Denny Hamlin, who had waged a war of words all week over an incident at Bristol Motor Speedway the Sunday before, wrecked on the last lap, opening the door for Kyle Busch, who had led the most laps but was third with one to go, to get a surprise win.
The wreck, which occurred when Logano appeared to move up the track and into Hamlin, sent Hamlin into a concrete wall without SAFER barriers attached and eventually to the hospital. Logano was unapologetic in his post-race comments.
“He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets,” Logano said of Hamlin, who was hospitalized overnight after complaining of back pain.
But Logano’s biggest worry going forward may be from Stewart, who was angered that Logano blocked him twice.
Stewart blocked Logano’s car after the race, climbed out of his own car, and an altercation with Logano and his crew ensued.
Stewart said Logano has a lesson coming from him.
“He is a tough guy on pit road as soon as one of his crew guys gets in the middle of it,” Stewart said. “Until then, he’s a scared little kid. Then he wants to throw a water bottle at me. He is going to learn a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough. He has sat there and done this double standard, and he’s nothing but a little rich kid that has never had to work in his life.
“He’s going to learn with us working guys that had to work our way up how it works.”
Logano said the blocking was justified.
“I had to throw the block there,” he said. “That was a race for the lead. I felt if the 14 [Stewart] got underneath me, that was going to be the end of my opportunity to win the race, so I was just trying to protect the spot I had.”
The Logano-Hamlin incident not only opened the door for Busch to win the race, it allowed Dale Earnhardt Jr. to finish second.
Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement that Hamlin suffered an L1 compression fracture in his lower spine. He is expected to fly home to North Carolina where he will be evaluated later this week.