The drivers tangled two weeks ago at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in California, where Stewart thought Logano had blocked him in the closing laps. Stewart parked his car near Logano’s and approached him. There was some shoving, but crew members broke it up before any punches were landed.
Stewart said Friday he spent the week off after the race at Fontana on vacation in Georgia, away from cellphone service and television, and Logano said while he never made any effort to contact the three-time champion, he thinks the break provided everyone with time to “relax a little bit and cool off.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that their feud can’t fire up again. And if there’s a track where close racing can lead to torn-up cars and injured feelings in a hurry, it’s tiny Martinsville Speedway with its tricky, 0.526-mile oval.
Stewart, concerned after practice that his three cars were not performing as well as he would like, said he wasn’t sure if the message he tried to teach Logano after the last race had even registered.
“We won’t know that until we see how he reacts in the same situation the next time,” he said.
Logano, though, isn’t sure he would do anything differently, especially while going for a victory.
“For the last 10 laps, I thought it was a great race and an awesome race,” he said. “We were racing really hard and we go in the corner and I shoved up into him. I guess you can take some blame for that, but it’s just hard racing. We’re going out there to win this thing and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Stewart and Jeff Burton agreed that Logano is likely feeling pressure after moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to Roger Penske Racing this season. Burton said Logano would do well to do more listening.
When confronted with an issue from something on the track, Burton said, “I don’t think he handles it very well. He doesn’t just step back and say, ‘You know what, OK, let me listen to what you’re saying. I may disagree with you but let me listen.’ He tends to resist, as if, ‘I’m right, I’m right, I’m right.’
“I know I had an issue with him a few years ago and I encouraged him to go look at the tape. I had already looked at it, so I knew what it showed. I didn’t tell him that. The next week I asked him if he had looked at it and he said, ‘No, I don’t need to.’ That kind of attitude is not welcomed,” Burton said.
Nor is fighting, although NASCAR declined to penalize Stewart for going in search of Logano.
“In other forms of racing, they just go down and slug it out and then they normally end up eating dinner with each other at a fast food joint,” Stewart said, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters. “You know, a sit down deal later in the evening. 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.”
For Logano, the immediacy with which drivers are asked to react make things dicey, too, and he said his comments after the race, as well as Stewart’s, reflected the tension and “heat off the moment.”
Logano, who tangled with Denny Hamlin on the final lap and made contact that sent Hamlin slamming into the wall, and later to the hospital with a fractured vertebra, essentially said Hamlin got what he deserved in their feud before knowing the extent of Hamlin’s injuries. Stewart referred to Logano as a “little rich kid whose never had to work a day in his life” and threatened to “whoop his butt.”
Now, Logano said, he thinks it will all go away.
“He just got off of pit road with a shoving match and so did I, and we’re all fired up,” Logano said. “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.”
One thing he won’t change, he said, is the way he drives.
“I don’t feel like I do anything that’s really disrespectful to other drivers out there,” he said. “I race really hard. I’m fine with being known as a hard racer. That’s OK with me.”