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In Racing, It’s Be a Man, Or Be Treated as a Boy

Sunday’s action after the checkered flag waved adds another chapter to what seems to be the ever-ongoing encyclopedia of short-track action leading to short-track tempers.  But what happened afterwards, not from the man getting the grandfather clock, but two other individuals is what has long been a true standard in the world of racing.

Whether it’s the top tier series in NASCAR, or the local short track, on-track incidents need to be handled as men, or if the case is needed as women.

Joey Logano vs. Denny Hamlin is one of those where both parties were handling the incident like men.  One confronted the other, the two had a discussion, and in a way they simply agreed to disagree.  Everyone knows that Hamlin is calm, maybe a bit emotional at times, but shows his anger in a different way than normal.  You won’t see him really going insane on pit road or in the garage unless it’s absolutely necessary.

But, just like many have said since, from Larry McReynolds to Kyle Petty, the moment Logano’s hand smacked Hamlin’s shoulder, that’s invasion of personal space.

The fact that he ran off like a kid doing a practical joke, it shows that he was fine discussing things as a man, but wasn’t happy with the result and became a stubborn boy.  Hamlin retaliated, which he had the right to do, because it was one of those deals where everything was fine…until he was touched.

The irony in all this is that Logano and Hamlin have been involved in other incidents where it was personal space that got invaded, but the difference was how it was handled.

Hamlin handled Martinsville like a man, but Logano handled it like a boy.
Hamlin handled Martinsville like a man, but Logano handled it like a boy.

Two years ago, at Martinsville no less, it was Hamlin doing the bumping on the track, then Chase Elliott confronted him afterwards.  You didn’t see hands thrown, although you did hear a lot of negativity from the home-state crowd towards Hamlin, but he was confronted by another driver and never laid a hand on him.  I’m sure if he did, things were going to escalate quickly, even for a young driver like Elliott, he was ready to defend himself.

You look at Logano’s resume of driver confrontations, he certainly has a list, and each does involve a little bit of invasion of personal space.

Go back as far as his moment with Ryan Newman post-race at Michigan, and Logano is trying to explain himself while Newman voiced his side.  He put his hands on Newman’s shoulders, and immediately Newman came back, clearly saying, “Don’t touch me.”

He’s even had a prior incident with Hamlin, back at Bristol in 2013, where he was confronting the No. 11 driver about another on-track incident.

Logano invaded Hamlin’s space while he still was in his car, and that in essence left Hamlin defenseless.

The difference between many of these incidents is unlike the most recent incident, Logano didn’t walk away after making his physical gesture.  That’s the problem I have with the most recent incident, or any incident that turns physical because of something that happened on the racing surface.  When someone touches another driver, not bumper to bumper but hand to shoulder, hand to head, or fist to stomach, and runs…that’s not being a man about the incident.  That is being a boy and not wanting to suffer consequences.

To quote the great pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross, Logano “ran like a scalded dog.”

I’ve seen a lot of on-track incidents that have involved running into another competitor, from my local dirt track involving late models all the way to 11,000-pound monster trucks at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  Yes, retaliation may come, but retaliation should be handled eye-to-eye, if it comes.  The latter, I witnessed with my own eyes, when Dan Runte in Bigfoot got hit in the side by Mat Dishman in Rammunition.  That was a true racing incident, as both drivers went for a win, and both paid a big price afterwards.

But, rather than get angry at one another and get into a fight, they got out, discussed what happened, and agreed on the aftermath.

“I mean it’s racing, you know,” Runte said.

That’s what all the Logano incidents have been…racing, but how he handles it varies based on how his results show on the final lap.  Last year, Logano was the one happy with his on-track move to push Martin Truex Jr. out of the way and go to victory, and was unapologetic for it.  Understandable, because that move put him in the title run at Homestead, and ultimately led to the championship.

One year later, Logano was the one on the wrong end of the deal, and he didn’t take it very well.  It was a tale of two results, and two reactions.

How one reacts to winning this will be that of a man, while the reaction of losing it could possibly be one of a boy.
How one reacts to winning this will be that of a man, while the reaction of losing it could possibly be one of a boy.

The bottom line here when it comes to racing incidents is drivers need to handle themselves like grown men, and face the music when things are good, or bad.  Some have a hard time doing that, and some do it better than others.  Look at the many Kyle Busch incidents and you have good moments, bad moments, and some that make you go, “Are you serious?”  We’ve seen Rowdy get into fights on pit road, namely with Logano last year that left Busch with blood running down his face, his on-track run with Kyle Larson at Chicagoland that led to the whining motion and his comments that if fans didn’t like that kind of racing, “don’t even watch.”

And who can count the many times he just leaves because things didn’t go his way, or just does a monotone interview as if he just lost a puppy.  To each their own, perhaps.

In the end, what we saw Sunday was the fourth round between Logano and Hamlin, and both went the distance so far if this were a battle inside the Octagon.

The question now remains if there will be a round five, and more over, where is it going to happen?  Could it be Texas…Phoenix?  Or, will that final round come down to a battle at Homestead where one spot could potentially be the difference between second place, and a championship?

Maybe then, when the checkered flag waves, if the reaction will be one of a man, or of a boy.

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