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Logano Vs. Hamlin Feud Is In Simmer Mode

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 15 2014

Joey Logano and former teammate Denny Hamlin are cool toward each other. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – One year after a post-race confrontation at Bristol Motor Speedway between former Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano spilled over to Auto Club Speedway where Hamlin suffered a potentially career-ending injury, the two competitors are just professionally polite to one another.

“We don’t talk or anything like that more than we should and really no less than we should,” said Hamlin, who earned the pole for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with a track record 129.991 mph. “You can hold grudges all you want, but it’s not going to make you any faster and it’s not going to get you any closer to a championship.”

Last year, the Auto Club Speedway race was the week after the Bristol event. Hamlin and Logano were racing each other for a top-5 position on the final lap when the two collided. Hamlin’s Toyota shot across the track and head-on into the fourth turn’s inside wall.

He suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebrae and was sidelined for slightly more than a month. Hamlin returned to his driving duties May 5 at Talladega, but turned his car over to relief driver Brian Vickers during the event’s first caution.

“I’m bitter in ways and in other ways it’s been so long ago and there’s so many trials and tribulations between then and now that I think I’m a better person now afterwards and I think I’m a better driver now than I was before,” Hamlin said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I think that it gives you perspective on things when you sit out a little bit and

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano used to be teammates. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

you don’t want it to be because of physical reasons and things like that. As far as my relationship with him, I treat him with respect on the race track as I should.”

Hamlin and Logano are both Coca-Cola-sponsored drivers and were together in a van for about three hours during the filming of a Coca-Cola Family commercial. Logano felt that by the end of that session “we all got along well.”

“I feel like we’re fine,” Logano continued. “A year is a long time. It’s over now. I feel like we’ve moved on. Obviously, people were talking about it this week because it’s the one-year anniversary of the whole fiasco, but you move on and forget about things. You’re supposed to forgive and forget and that goes both ways, so we both knew what we had to do and I feel like we’ve moved on and we’re going from there.”

After the back injury a year ago, Hamlin often talked about possibly having surgery. However, he decided against it, opting instead for therapy that requires a great deal of time in the gym.

“The surgery wasn’t going to be for the broken L1 that I had. It was going to be for the degenerative L4 and 5 discs that I have,” Hamlin explained. “They’re still really, really bad, but I have just strengthened everything around it. I’ve just put really big Band-Aids all over my body to where I just don’t feel the pain from that much anymore because I’m stronger in that area.

“Anyone that deals with back pain knows that rehabbing is going to make you feel better as any medicine that you take. I’ve done my work in the gym instead of any other way. Pilates have been my best friend.”

Leading up to the 2014 season Hamlin was receiving the same type of injections in his back that were used to treat Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. They consisted of lidocaine and an inflammatory medicine that numbed his back. He said the injections were effective for 1 ½ to 2 months.

“Getting those injections allowed me to do more in the gym,” Hamlin said. “It bought me time in the off-season to get stronger and now I don’t need the medicine to feel better. I feel better naturally. I think time has made everything better. As long as I continue to do what I need to do, we don’t see anything that’s going to flare back up.”

Hamlin said it was difficult for him to explain to the casual race fan the amount of stress placed on a driver’s back.

“There’s a twisting going on in our torso as we’re taking G-forces for different race tracks,” he said. “A lot of what we do and the speed that we find comes from our backend. That’s how we feel the race car, feel the edge. When you don’t feel that anymore it really becomes tough to do your job at a high level. The moment I’m not competitive in the Cup series I’m not going to be here anymore. I’m not going to run 15th and 20th every week. I just won’t do it.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 15 2014
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