Kyle Busch celebrates in Fontana - image: Kyle Busch MotorsportsEnlarge Photo
Kyle Busch hasn’t had the best of luck in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has looked strong in virtually every race, but had so far managed just one podium finish with a second place at last week’s Food City 500
Kyle Busch again looked like the man to beat on Sunday, at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California
, leading the bulk of the race’s laps. Following a late race restart, however, Busch found himself in third position, trailing a dueling Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin held the high line, but Logano broke traction off the final corner and slid his Penske Ford Fusion into Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. As both drivers began to lose control of their race cars, Busch saw his opportunity and passed above his teammate Hamlin.
The ensuing wreck was minor for Logano, but fairly major for Hamlin, who went nose-first into a concrete barrier on the inside of the track. The impact was severe enough to lift Hamlin’s car into the air, and the driver was airlifted (due to heavy traffic) to a nearby hospital for observation following complaints of back pain.
Kyle Busch’s drive was absolutely masterful, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver ended a 31-race Sprint Cup drought. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second (giving him the current points lead), followed by Logano, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, who’s now earned his second top five finish in two races.
Kyle Busch’s win, however, was overshadowed by both Hamlin’s crash and by a post-race confrontation between Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. Stewart, upset that Logano blocked him on the final restart, came out of his car swinging. Logano reportedly threw a water bottle at Stewart before both crews intervened.
Later, Stewart called Logano “a spoiled rich kid,” before adding, “he’s a tough guy on pit road, as soon as one of his crew guys gets in the middle of it. Until then, he’s a scared little kid.”
Logano, meanwhile, was unrepentant about his his block on Stewart or his contact with Hamlin. Of the Stewart incident, Logano said, “I wanted to block that (Stewart’s attempted pass down low) because I knew, if he put me three wide, that would be the end of my race and I wouldn’t win.”
As for Logano’s take on the incident with Hamlin, the Penske driver said, “He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week (when Hamlin purposely spun Logano), so that’s what he gets.”
There’s a fine line in NASCAR between driving hard and deliberately making enemies, and Logano seems to be straddling that line with several other teams. In a sport where cooperation is key and payback is all but a certainty, the rest of Logano’s 2013 season should prove to be interesting.