Who Is Off His Christmas List?
WBKR's NASCAR Specilaist Blake Smith is here with a look at the Cup series during the off week.
WBKR NASCAR Report: The Off-Weekend Blues
This weekend will mark the first off-weekend of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. After five races, all three manufacturers have made their way to victory lane in the new Gen6 car. Chevy and Toyota both have frequent flyer miles after making the trip to victory lane on two occasions this weekend. Now, let's look at the last five races and preview some of the headlines in the weeks to come.
Both Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing seem to have started the 2013 season where they ended the 2012 season. Rick Hendrick has visited victory lane with Jimmie Johnson at Daytona and with Kasey Kahne at Bristol. Joe Gibbs Racing may have the speedways figured out as his drivers, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch have pulled out the victories at Las Vegas and last week’s race at California. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads last year’s champion, Brad Keselowski in the Sprint Cup Series points standings by 12 points.
Going into this weekend’s break, Penske Racing Driver Joey Logano can definitely mark 2 names off of his Christmas card list. After comments made on Twitter following the Daytona 500 between Logano and his previous teammate Denny Hamlin, both drivers expressed no love lost between the two. Contact made while running in the top five at Bristol between Hamlin and Logano only fueled the fire, which I thought had burnt out after the confrontation between Logano and Hamlin following the race at Bristol.
As seen in the last few laps and ultimately the last lap at California last week, that definitely wasn’t the case. Hamlin and Logano raced hard for the win in the closing laps of last week’s Auto Club 400. In the last corner of the last lap, contact was made between the two rivals which took both drivers out of contention and sent Hamlin hard into the inside retaining wall. Hamlin exited the car on his own but immediately collapsed and was tended to by the on-track medical staff. Hamlin was transported for overnight observation to an area hospital.
Joey Logano has also removed his name from the Tony Stewart Fan Club membership after the final restart on Sunday. Stewart lined up behind Logano in the inside line on the last restart and as Stewart attempted to make a move on Logano down low, Logano blocked Stewart's #14. Logano told media, "I had to throw the block there. 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. I was actually pedaling, because I couldn't keep the 18 (race leader Kyle Busch) aligned (in front of Logano's No. 22 Ford, as the rules require on a restart). I was actually faster than the 18 getting our tires hooked up. And then I'm trying to stagger myself making sure I don't beat him to the line, and then I had to block the 14 because I was pedaling it. I'll talk to him and we'll see what happens." Tony Stewart had his own comments following the incident, "He's going to learn a lesson," Stewart said. "He's run his mouth long enough. He's nothing but a little rich kid who's never had to work in his life, so he's going to learn what us working guys who had to work our way up and how it works. He has the choice to do that. He's in control of his car. But 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. I'm tired of these guys doing that stuff, especially out of a kid that's been griping about everybody else -- and then he does that the next week and sends Denny to the hospital and screws 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."
No fines were handed down after the incidents on Sunday, but Denny Hamlin will be penalized worse than any monetary fine. Hamlin will be out of the car for a minimum of five weeks, while his compression fracture in his back heals. Mark Martin has been announced as Hamlin’s replacement (ed. note: That was the case as of the writing, but not now.) and Brian Vickers is expected to drive Martin’s #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in those races. Hamlin will miss next week’s race at Martinsville as well as Texas, Kansas, Richmond and Talladega. Hamlin could be back for the Mother’s Day Weekend event at Darlington on May 11th.
Next week’s race weekend will be a double header at Martinsville with the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday and Sprint Cup race on Friday. There will be a driver making his first start in the Camping World Truck Series next weekend with a last name that you may recognize. Check back next week to find out who! You can hear the Camping World Truck Series as well as Nationwide on 1490 WOMI-AM and at 1490.womi.com.
Tune into my good friend, Eli Gold on Tuesday for the newly revamped NASCAR Live and a preview of next weekend’s STP Gas Booster 500 on 92.5 WBKR and wbkr.com!