I keep thinking about the wreck at Auto Club Speedway between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. The fact that NASCAR decided not to fine anyone involved, including Tony Stewart, indicates the official stance was “That was a racin’ deal.”
That “deal,” of course, resulted in a broken back for Hamlin while on pit road after the race, his rival Logano shot his reputation right in the mouth by saying Hamlin “got what [he] deserved.”
I can’t help but wonder how he feels about that statement. Remorseful, let’s hope. Look: I know he’s a kid. He’s also a public individual, and as such he has to know how a line like that could be received by the audience, and the audience matters. I wonder how his sponsors felt about those comments as well. I know I’d have been more than uncomfortable with them. Perhaps it’s time for the Captain to….take him out behind the woodshed for a little come-to-Penske meeting.
He’ll grow through this. Most people do, especially after they’re brought up short as Logano has been, and rightly, I think; not that I want drivers to act like robots, but everybody needs to understand that the camera, the microphone amplify everything one says. One wrong word can be serious trouble. Anybody remember Dale Jr. talking about “making chicken salad out of chicken shit”? He caught a bit of flak for that, although it would’ve gone much harder on him (let’s face it) had his last name not been Earnhardt. Now, I like profanity myself, but I know better than to say at any point that somebody else got what was coming to them, even if I felt that way. Not on camera, for certain. Again, given the opportunity Logano should learn these things. He might well have the talent, and I hope he does, but in media terms he has some serious problems, which means of course that he also has trouble in the garage. That’s never a good thing. Rivalries are one thing, but this seems to have a poisonous dimension to it; that’s why I liked the fact that Roger Penske himself publicly laid down the law: “Settle down.”
When Roger speaks, I hope everybody will listen. Especially now.
Meanwhile, we have Martinsville to consider. I’m betting ticket sales will be up because people will: a) see Joey “get his,” or b) see Joey somehow pull out the win against all odds. The fact that we’re talking about Martinsville means a prime opportunity for “getting even” somehow or another, as everybody knows. Personally, I’d rather that not happen, but the tight confines of that track raises drivers’ blood pressure all by itself, and the layout lends itself to, to put in mildly, “getting even.” I can actually see drivers texting Joey and saying something like “Lap 11, turn three, for Denny. Watch your ass.” Hopefully that isn’t happening, but it’s easy to envision. It’s happened before at Martinsville, and racers do not forget, particularly under circumstances like this one.
This could be an example of a “teachable moment.” If I were the parent of a young kid who wanted to get involved in racing, I’d point out how wrong it was to say such things even if you think that way, that sponsors and the TV audience are listening and that you can get your whole career into huge trouble if you don’t think through what you say before you say them. I think that’s true in life as well as racing.
Here’s to a fun race weekend. And by fun, I mean I want it to be close but with no injury. Let’s hope.