Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Joey Logano And His Enemies

As NASCAR enters its Easter bye week, the story that isn't going away is Joey Logano and the bad crash involving Denny Hamlin at Fontana. Hamlin's back injury has left him sidelined for perhaps six weeks, and has also touched off criticism (notably from Darrell Waltrip) that there was no SAFER barrier in the area near pit road where he hit. This criticism, though, ignores that Michael Annett at Daytona this year and Eric McClure at Talladega last year were both seriously injured in head-on crashes into SAFER barriers; we really shouldn't assume that having a SAFER barrier where Hamlin hit would have made much difference.

The sport has famously upgraded its safety efforts since 2001 yet it is flirting once again with something worse than what we're presently seeing.


The issue goes further into the fundamental fitness of Joey Logano to be involved in the sport. The Fontana melee included a brawl Tony Stewart and Logano over the last restart, and the verbiage between the two was unusually vicious between Stewart's rant about Logano's "spoiled" upbringing and Logano lashing at Hamlin for previous incidents - "He shouldn't have done what he did last week (at Bristol) so that's what he gets."

Given the history of Hamlin's career, one actually has to grudgingly agree. ATHLON SPORTS in its 2013 NASCAR preview noted that Hamlin has the most off-turning personality in the garage area, and his past scrapes in the sport further fuel his image as stuck up. Of course Logano's career in effect began with his 2009 Irwindale cheapshot and subsequent disqualification at Irwindale Speedway and it's never gotten better with frequent crashes, poor driving, and periodic fights with other drivers.

What it boils down to with Logano is that he is a combination of Ryan Leaf and Jack Tatum - he's the stuck-up talentless jerk that was Leaf and carries an intimation of malice befitting Tatum.   That he spoke of Hamlin's past scrapes and in effect said Hamlin got what he deserved is one of those radically mixed bags that leaves one uncomfortable - it bespeaks of a bloodthirsty character yet is also an appropriate retort to previous instigation, and given that the law of the jungle applies to sports it's commendable to a point for Logano to say it - the blunt truth is Hamlin did get what he deserved.

Even with that, what amounts to a broken back that could have been worse is scary and leaves one angry with both.   Yet it is typical of this generation of NASCAR racer, where unprofessional behavior on and off the track has long been the norm.   Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards to an even greater severity, and the Busch brothers are the archetypal punk racers of the sport.  For the entirety of their careers they have been reason not to watch.

For now the sport has a bye week, but it gets back to Martinsville and the "rubbing is racing" ethos is likely to see more of the ugliness this 2013 season has already seen.

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