Denny Hamlin won the race but was vehemently booed by the fans during his post-race interview.
Kyle Larson gave an angry post-race interview in which he said he now feels as if he has to race Hamlin more aggressively.
Austin Dillon and his grandfather/team owner were very angry with former Richard Childress Racing driver Tyler Reddick.
Ryan Preece angrily, and perhaps even physically, confronted Corey LaJoie after the race.
And finally, Joey Logano launched into a verbal tirade directed at a pair of tow truck drivers.
With all of this going on, the most recent NASCAR Cup Series race had to have taken place at Bristol, right? Martinsville? Richmond? Maybe a road course? Possibly Daytona or Talladega?
Of course, none of those choices are correct. The HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway provided more fireworks than the 4th of July which is not usually the case for the 2.5-mile ‘Tricky Triangle” located in eastern Pennsylvania. This was a race in which the on-track action during the race was only a part of the story. It was what happened off the track and after the race that fans, media, and competitors are likely to remember the longest.
On lap 37, early race leader Joey Logano was involved in what would ultimately prove to be a multi-car incident. The No. 22 Team Penske Ford sat helpless in turn one with flat tires all around. When the tow truck finally arrived its driver and another track safety worker initially tried to push the car back to the pit area. But as has been shown previously with the Next Gen car, it is virtually un-pushable with flat tires.
Using NBC/USA’s in-car footage, which has been played across all social media channels, Logano can be heard in a very angry tone trying to explain to the workers that the car will have to be towed rather than pushed. A number of expletives were a part of the dialogue.
Multiple things took place about a half-lap after a late race restart that would have people talking for hours and days later.
Hamlin restarted just behind Larson. Although Larson got the initial jump, Hamlin cleared the car on the inside row and got to Larson’s left rear quarter. As they exited turn two and were about to head onto the backstretch, contact(and yes, there was contact) between the two cars caused Larson to bounce off of the outside wall.
As the cars circulated under caution after Justin Haley crashed moments later, Larson drove up alongside Hamlin and showed his displeasure with a side-to-side bump.
Hamlin went on to win the race then when the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came back around for the burnout and television interview on the front straightaway, the fans were ready for the now villainous driver as he was greeted with a chorus of boos and even a few middle fingers.
Larson then talked to the NBC pit reporter Kim Coon about the incident that resulted in a 20th place finish for the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“I’ve been cost a lot of good finishes by him in my career,” Larson declared. “I know he says I race a certain way but I don’t think I’ve ever had to apologize to him about anything not that I’m sure he’s going to say sorry after this. It is what it is. Whatever, just move on.”
When asked if he would race his friend differently from now on, Larson said he feels as if he has no choice in the matter.
“I think at this point I have to, right?” Larson reasoned. “Like I said, I’ve never had to apologize to him about anything, anything I’ve done on the race track but I can count four or five times where he’s had to reach out to me, ‘Oh man, I’m sorry I put you in a bad spot there’. Eventually, like he says, you’ve got to start racing people a certain way to get the respect back.”
He then went on to say that his best form of therapy for situations like this is to hit the dirt track, which he will do in a High Limit Sprint Car Series race at Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway on Wednesday night(rescheduled from Tuesday because of rain).
“I’m going to go race a Sprint Car on Tuesday night and forget about it here in a few hours,” he explained. “That’s the best medicine for a tough result. I look forward to getting in the No. 57 Sprint Car at Grandview then move on to Richmond.”
And lastly, on the race’s final restart, Corey LaJoie tagged the car of Ryan Preece sending the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for a spin. When the cars rolled onto pit road after the race, Preece quickly climbed from his machine and stormed toward LaJoie’s No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet and let loose with a profanity-laced verbal tirade that may have also included a physical element as well.
But with all of that, this race’s most unforgettable quote came from Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon after contact between him and former teammate Tyler Reddick on lap 107 sent the No. 3 Chevrolet into the outside wall and ultimately out of the race.
Childress got on the team radio to offer his account of what happened saying, “The damn 45 just turned him” then adding, “That little prick just wrecked us.”
After leaving the infield car center, Dillon also had something to say when interviewed by NBC/USA.
Dillon had flung his helmet at Reddick’s car when the field came back around at slow speed. He was asked what message he had wanted to send with that move.
“Uh, that I was mad,” Dillon replied. “I heard Junior’s replay that said I came down a little bit but I felt like I was holding my own. He was at my left rear going in there, I knew we were three-wide. I’ve got the right to at least hold my lane, I mean I’ve got to turn at some time to get down, Brad(Keselowski) was on my outside, maybe a half lane up. I feel like he drove it in deep enough that he had to come up the track into me. I felt like that was not the time to do that for the 45.”
Then Dillon was asked if the helmet throw was enough or would he need to do more.
“No, I just need to start wrecking some people.”
There are multiple ways to get back at a rival who a NASCAR driver feels has wronged him. Look at the example provided by Chase Elliott at Bristol in 2021 when he, laps down, basically got in Kevin Harvick’s way long enough for Larson to get by and eventually go on to win the race.
Drivers can do things like not push the line in which their rival is in on a restart or at some crucial point in a drafting race at Daytona or Talladega. They can subtly force a competitor off the track on a road course. They can stop short or long in their pit stall to make it more difficult for their opponent to get into or our of his own stall. There are many ways to exact revenge that the average viewer may never even notice.
OR, they can just flat out wreck the guy they are upset with.
If that is the choice, this coming weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 on the short track layout of Richmond Raceway might be the perfect place to do exactly that.
Please consider also reading:
Also, dirt racing fans can check out InsideDirtRacing.com for more racing content.