By Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR News Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
BRISTOL, Tenn. --The action was back at Bristol Motor Speedway with a war of attrition on the track and a war of words in the garage following Kasey Kahne's victory in Sunday's Food City 500.
Denny Hamlin, who led a race-high 117 laps, and his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, went at it verbally in a scuffle that also involved team members. The dust-up came after an incident on Lap 348 in which Hamlin sent Logano spinning in Turn 2 with both drivers in hot pursuit of race leader Jeff Gordon.
Ultimately, though they both led the race, neither factored at the finish.
Logano, who ended up 17th, made a beeline for Hamlin's crippled Toyota immediately after the race, sticking his head in the driver's window.
"That's a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car --probably the worst teammate I ever had," Logano said. "He decided to run in the back of me, so, whatever. I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that. What goes around comes around."
Hamlin, relegated to 23rd by a late-race flat tire, had his own take.
"He slipped up, into me," Hamlin said. "He would have been in the garage with no radiator if I had not checked up twice. I meant to run into him (although) I didn't mean to spin him out. ... We finished bad. He finished bad. It's even."
Hamlin and Logano had also exchanged less-than-complimentary Tweets after the Daytona 500. Asked if the two had a problem, Logano replied: "If we didn't, we do now. Tweet that."
Of course, it was the close racing on the .533-mile track that fueled tempers. With drivers able to run both the bottom and top lanes --something they'd been unable to accomplish in recent years at Bristol --there were 17 lead changes among 10 drivers.
"Anytime you come to a short track you want to see a great race," said Brad Keselowski, who finished third. "No, the 'old Bristol' can never come back. It will never be (like) 1995-99. It's a whole different era with a different car. But I quite honestly feel this (Bristol) is better. It's a very racy track. It changes a lot throughout the race. Certainly, you have the ability to run into each other like you always had. But you also have the ability to really work a lot of different lanes. That makes the lap traffic and all that stuff really, really fun to go through and really fun to watch."
Tony Stewart started eighth but was in the garage after nine laps. Stewart had a left-rear tire go down and could not get low enough on the track to pit before it blew, causing him to spin in Turn 1. By the time he returned to the track he was 14 laps behind, on his way to a 31st place showing.
That left the three-time Sprint Cup champion mired in 24th place in the points, 81 behind the new leader, Keselowski and 30 points behind both Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., tied for 10th.
Jimmie Johnson, who entered Sunday with the points lead, dropped to third, 15 points off the pace. He's one spot ahead of Clint Bowyer, who jumped five spots to fourth place but is 38 points behind Keselowski.
Ten Lucky Winners
Ten fans in attendance at Sunday's Food City 500 drove away with new Ford Mustangs, courtesy of Speedway Motorsports and president Bruton Smith. In each case, one of five finalists pressed a button that activated the car's alarm, indicating the fan's claim to a new car.
Winners in "Bruton's Big Bristol Giveaway" were: Charlie Grooms (Morristown, Tenn.), Chris Hatchett (Bassett, Va.), Heather Barnett (Cedar Bluff, Va.), Keith Rose (Pounding Mill, Va.), Jeff Rupe (Sophia, WVa.), Robert Jones (Indianapolis), Kenneth Morris (Pittsburgh), Chris Younger (Williamson, WVa.), Darryl Klutz (Carthage, N.C.), Larry Glascoe (Winston-Salem, N.C.).
One More Time
Fifty-six-year-old Terry Labonte extended his Bristol Motor Speedway record by making his 58th career start on Sunday. It was the third start at Bristol since 2006 for the winner of the August 1984 and August 1995 races. Labonte finished 25th, four laps down.
When Darrell Waltrip is impressed by a driver at Bristol, it means something. And Waltrip, who won seven consecutive races at Bristol from 1981-84, is impressed with Kyle Busch.
"Kyle gets around this race track as good as anyone I've ever seen," Waltrip said. "I love watching him. I kind of, vicariously, feel like I'm in the car with him."
Busch alluded to Waltrip's record of excellence at Bristol during driver introductions: "I may be no Darrell Waltrip, but I sure as heck don't need no introduction," Busch said.
Waltrip also extended kudos to NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Kyle Larson, who came up inches short of catching Busch in Saturday's Nationwide Series race. "He kind of went from the outhouse to the penthouse with me," said Waltrip, who had seen Larson take out C.E. Falk on the final turn to win a modified race at Daytona in February. "He showed a lot of restraint. He had a reputation for being pretty aggressive to win a race. I think he gained back a lot of respect from people like myself who thought he was a kid who needed to be a little more respectful."
Celebrities in the House
New University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones might have been attending his first NASCAR race, but knew to keep his command to start engines short and sweet. "I know, being a coach on the sidelines, I don't want to hear somebody talk. The drivers want to get the race going and they want to compete," said Jones, who did reference his school's checkerboard end zones during his command. Jones said he's "all in" as a fan. "You watch it on TV or you may sit in the stands and watch it but you really never know what goes on behind the screens until you experience it. So, to be here in Bristol, go to the drivers' meeting, that really made it rewarding. I'm officially a fan."
Charlie Daniels, whose band provided pre-race entertainment, received a $30,000 check on Sunday from Darrell and Michael Waltrip to benefit his Scholarship for Heroes charity at Lipscomb University. Daniels will headline the fourth annual Waltrip Brothers' Charity Championship dinner in Franklin, Tenn. on Oct. 23, part of a two-day fundraiser with a golf tournament to benefit Feed The Children, Motor Racing Outreach and Scholarship for Heroes.