CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR suspended a member of Joey Logano’s crew Monday for this weekend’s race at Texas after the tire specialist dragged Denny Hamlin to the ground in a chaotic scuffle between the rival drivers.
Dave Nichols Jr. horse-collared Hamlin and pulled him to the pavement after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Hamlin and Logano had been discussing an on-track incident that suddenly flared into a confrontation.
Many Team Penske crew members shielded Logano from a charging Hamlin, and Nichols approached him from behind and knocked Hamlin down. Nichols, crew chief Todd Gordon and competition director Travis Geisler were all called before NASCAR after the fracas.
Nichols was found to be in violation of a NASCAR behavioral guideline that addresses “member-to-member confrontation with physical violence.”
Team Penske just last week made several crew change swaps that in part reunited Logano with the entire over-the-wall team he had during last year’s championship run.
Logano finished eighth at Martinsville and is ranked fourth in the standings with two races remaining in this round of the playoffs.
The field of eight will be cut to four for the title race, and three spots remain available following Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Martinsville.
Joe Gibbs, team owner for winning driver Truex and Hamlin, said emotions played a role in the skirmish between Hamlin and Logano, a former Gibbs driver.
“I think everybody’s crews try and protect their driver, and I think generally what we try and do is separate guys,” Gibbs said. “But we all know emotion runs high. It’s a sport that brings a lot of intensity to the racetrack. Everything you put into this, and if you see somebody do something to you that you think goes against what’s best for you, there’s going to be a price to pay for that.
“I just think it is emotion. It’s part of our sport,” said Gibbs, a former NFL coach with the Washington Redskins. “You see it in most sports, to be truthful.”
Truex crew chief Cole Pearn, a Canadian and hockey lover, thought the confrontation was minor.
“I grew up getting in a lot of fights in my life, so I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “I don’t see why everyone gets so worked up about it here. I don’t think it’s a big deal. I was good at starting them. I don’t know how many I won, I just made sure I had bigger friends to help me out when I got going.”