Several media members think the incident between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch during Saturday night’s All-Star race from Charlotte Motor Speedway could have an impact on the rest of the season, and both teams’ championship hopes.
Jay Busbee wrote in his From the Marbles blog on Yahoo Sports:
If Kyle can keep his well-documented temper under control and keep his eye on the larger prize, this incident could be the tiniest anecdote on the way to a championship. If not, Hamlin might find this wreck will end up costing him a lot more than he’d ever expected.
Jeff Owens of SceneDaily.com wrote:
What happens when they have a similar confrontation in a points race, with valuable bonus points or a position in the standings on the line? Do they back down and give each other room, or race even harder? Will Busch be more aggressive next time, using his bumper to retaliate against his teammate? And if their brewing rivalry is not really over, could it cost one of them a championship? With their intense personalities, it’s a feud that could not only erupt, but one that also could have serious consequences.
Talk of far-reaching implications on the championship hopes of either team is overblown.
For those of you who don’t know, during the final segment of the All-Star race, Busch got a run on Hamlin for the lead and attempted to pass to the outside. Hamlin blocked the move and pinched Busch into the outside wall, causing a tire rub that eventually led to a tire failure that put Busch out of the race.
After the incident, Busch said:
Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin after this…race. I swear to God, I’m going to kill that [expletive]. All his [expletive] fault. I had this race won! It was won!
Instead of driving his damaged car to his hauler, Busch drove to Hamlin’s hauler and stormed inside, waiting for him to finish the race. When Hamlin arrived, he, Busch, and Joe Gibbs had a long discussion about the incident.
With any other set of teammates, this could indicate a rift in the camp. But with a driver like Busch, whose reactions are steeped in emotions, these antics are not surprising; some would even say they’re expected.
Busch hates losing, and he lets his emotions dictate actions. That combination often leads to outbursts like Saturday night. It’s not surprising. But, if you look at Busch’s track record, he is not one who really holds a grudge – at least a grudge that he carries with him to the track.
Busch has had several run-ins with other drivers since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. But, most of those clashes have been the result of Busch being overly aggressive in the car, or Busch thinking someone cost him a chance to win.
And while Busch has the reputation of a hot-headed driver with a temper, those incidents rarely result in Busch retaliating on-track. He has confronted drivers on pit road and in the garage, but he hasn’t consistently, intentionally wrecked anyone who has wrecked him.
While Hamlin isn’t afraid to spin out a driver who has crossed him, in this case, he isn’t the one who got the short end of the stick. He also realizes how emotional Busch can be and therefore is unlikely to put much stock in what Busch says. So, it should be much easier for him – the driver more likely to hold a grudge that translates into on-track retaliation – to let it go.
When Hamlin and more importantly Busch look at this incident when they’re calm, they will both see that this was a racing incident, nothing more.
There were less than 10 laps to go when the incident occurred. Inside of 10 laps to go, all bets are off. The racing gets tighter, and there’s much less give and take — teammates or not. When battling for the lead, and a potential win, you race hard. Add in that the race was non-points-paying and for $1 million and surely Busch will understand why Hamlin went for the block.
And Hamlin never made contact with Busch. Hamlin certainly shut the door on Busch, but he didn’t hit him and force him into the wall. Busch made contact with the wall on his own.
Once removed from the heat of the moment, Busch will realize that Hamlin blocked him cleanly, and did so to preserve a victory, and that should help him realize that this was a racing incident, nothing more.