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Tony Stewart objected to Joey Logano's blocking tactics two weeks ago. They meet again in Martinsville.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
MARTINSVILLE — NASCAR’s latest driver feud has been placed on simmer. For the time being, anyway.
Joey Logano and Tony Stewart will be tossed back on the hot plate in Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
With both parties back at the race track Friday for the first time since their post-race scuffle at California’s Auto Club Speedway 13 days ago, Logano said he considers the feud over. Meanwhile, Stewart said he’s got more important matters to contend with considering the current struggles of the three-car team that he owns with Carl Haas.
The two drivers haven’t spoken since the California event, where Stewart was infuriated by Logano’s blocking tactics in the race’s final restart with 30 miles left in the 500-miler. After the race, Stewart bolted from his car and charged to Logano’s car, where he shoved his adversary in the chest. Logano flung a water bottle in exchange during the scuffle between the drivers and crew members.
Afterward, Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, was furious with the 22-year-old driver in a post-race interview, threatening to “bust his ass.”
Logano also was involved in a last-lap crash with Denny Hamlin that left his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with a compression fracture in his lower back. Hamlin, who may miss as many as five races with the injury, was present Friday trying to help his Martinsville replacement driver Mark Martin. Only a week earlier, Hamlin had wrecked Logano at Bristol.
Logano, who is under pressure to impress with his new Penske Racing team, said he has no plans of altering how he does business on the track.
“I’m not going to change the way I drive,” Logano said. “I don’t feel like I do anything that’s really disrespectful to other drivers out there. I race really hard. I’m fine with being known as a hard racer.
“I don’t look for trouble, but I’m also not here to get walked on either. There’s a fine line of how you’re going to earn that respect.”
Now comes Martinsville, a .526-mile bullring where close-quarters racing and contact are the norm. More possible fireworks between the two combatants?
“I would expect him to race me the same way is what I would expect from him,” Logano said. “Late in the race, I would probably do the same thing if it’s the right move at the time, but like I said, early in the race I wouldn’t.
“It’s 500 laps here at Martinsville, so there has to be give-and-take. This is one of the toughest race tracks to get around and passing cars is hard, so patience runs low here. It’s a give-and-take race, for sure.”
Logano said the week off since California has enabled both parties to “cool off a little bit.”
“It’s heat of the moment,” said Logano, when asked about Stewart’s post-race diatribe. “He just got off of pit road with a shoving match and so did I, and we’re all fired up. Then you stick a microphone in our face and we’re not ready for it, so you’re going to say things that you may or may not mean.
“When you get some time to cool off a little bit, your comments change quite a bit. That’s one of the tough things about our sport. In most sports, you have time to cool off before they stick a microphone in your face.”
Stewart spent most of his 15 minutes with reporters talking about blocking tactics. The veteran driver is thumbs down on such maneuvers, while Logano said there’s a time and place in a race where such moves are OK in his mind.
“Every driver is going to have their own opinion,” Logano said. “Late in the race, you’re going to see that a lot. You’re going to see it here. A lot of people are going to do it, and as a driver you have to be ready for that.
“But early in the race it isn’t acceptable for a lot of people, and I don’t blame them.”
Stewart, who said Logano ran him “clear down to the infield” at California, said blocking another driver on the track only should occur at Talladega and Daytona.
“There is a huge difference between the two,” Stewart said. “I don’t like blocking. I never have. I never will. It’s our jobs as drivers to go out there and try to pass people. That’s what racing is about.
“We didn’t have blocking 10 years ago. I don’t know where all of a sudden it became a common deal and some people think it’s all right to do now and think it’s just common practice.”
There is nothing in the NASCAR rulebook that says blocking is illegal. Stewart said he wished the rulebook was more concrete on the subject.
“People are kind of split on it,” he said. “Joey thinks that’s all right. That’s his opinion on it. I don’t think it’s right.”
Stewart said he wished NASCAR was more like other forms of racing when it comes to settling driver differences.
“They just go down and slug it out and then they normally end up eating dinner with each other at a fast-food joint ... a sit-down deal later in the evening,” a grinning Stewart said. “That is the way racing is across the country and it gets settled. But the problem here is that NASCAR has to keep some law and order here.”
No big deal, driver Brian Vickers said. He said he loves driver conflict. Besides, it’s good for ticket sales.
“I think that people want to see real-life drama, you know?” a grinning Vickers said. “They want the good, the bad and the ugly. You want drama and you want to see raw emotions.
“But, what people want is they want reality. They do want reality television. They want real. They don’t want planned reality. They want real people pushing themselves to the limit and expressing the raw emotions and you’re going to have feuds when you do that.
“You’ve got 43 guys fighting for one spot. I feel like that’s why they show up to the race track. They want to see good, hard racing, but they want to see real people fighting with everything they have.”
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