Logano offers up explanation over fight
By Bob Baum
The Associated Press
AVONDALE, Ariz. — The first face-to-face meeting between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano since last week’s post-race scuffle in Las Vegas is over.
Whether the drivers feel any better about things headed into Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway is as open question.
The two were summoned to a 15-minute session Friday with NASCAR officials as everyone involved tried to put the pit road brawl to bed. Busch attempted to turn the attention to this weekend’s racing at Phoenix, saying almost nothing as he emerged from the meeting. He answered every question by repeating, “Everything’s great.”
Logano initiated a phone conversation with Busch on Tuesday. He said after Friday’s meeting it was good to sit with his former teammate and explain the on-track incident at Las Vegas was “an honest mistake.”
Logano capped a day in the spotlight with a fast late lap Friday to claim the pole for the NASCAR Camping World 500.
With the temperature in the low 90s and the sun beginning to set, Ryan Blaney qualified second to give Ford the top two spots to start Sunday’s race.
Logano and Blaney bumped Dale Earnardt Jr.’s Chevrolet out of the top spot he had held through most of the final five-minute qualifying round on Friday.
Are the two OK?
“I guess time will tell. We’ll see,” Logano said. “I hope he’s able to see that and know that I was sincere about it but time will tell.”
The two were racing for position Sunday at Las Vegas and Busch spun because of Logano’s hard racing. Busch stormed down pit road and threw a punch at Logano before crews intervened. Team Penske was not penalized for tackling Busch, even though he sustained a gash to his forehead in the scrum.
Logano said he has tried to persuade Busch with evidence he says shows he didn’t cause the wreck intentionally on the final lap.
“I really just tried to explain that I made a mistake underneath him,” Logano said. “That’s basically what it was. He asked for some data. I was able to show him that. It was pretty clear in my opinion what happened so that’s that.”
NASCAR senior executive Steve O’Donnell was in the meeting.
“The beginning of it was really to let the drivers talk about what happened, which they did,” he said. “Then we were very clear about our expectations, what we expect going forward.”
NASCAR chose not to penalize either driver for the post-race confrontation.
“It’s an emotional sport,” O’Donnell said. “We still view that as true racing hard for position. If that escalates beyond to something intentional on the race track, we were very clear that we’ll react.”
Busch repeated his “everything’s great” comment to five separate questions. It was far different from what he said Sunday, when he was led away from the fracas by NASCAR officials as blood from his forehead trickled down his nose.
“I got dumped,” he said then. “He flat out just drove in the corner and wrecked me. That’s how Joey races so he’s going to get it.”
The Busch vs. Logano subplot adds heat to what already promised to be a sweaty race, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-90s at the track carved into the desert hills southwest of downtown Phoenix.
Logano appeared at a regularly scheduled news conference later Friday and called Busch’s violent reaction to the crash “a little bit of a surprise but understandable.”
He said he and Busch never had a problem before Sunday and if he could take back his driving mistake he’d “do it in a heartbeat.”
But Logano said he would never change his aggressive driving style despite the risks.
“When you’re on the edge of out of control all the time,” he said, “it doesn’t take much to step over it.”
He even joked a bit, showing how he ducked to avoid Busch’s punch.
“I’ve got like these ninja moves, man,” Logano said, smiling.
Veteran driver Martin Truex Jr., the winner last Sunday in Las Vegas, doesn’t think this is the end of the issue.
“They’ll race differently, as simple as that,” Truex said. “Kyle is going to make it as hard as he can on Joey every chance he gets. Joey is probably going to give Kyle a little bit more here and there just to try to pay it back. But we’ll see how it all plays out.”
Kyle Larson, a fast-rising young driver on the NASCAR circuit, was asked if he was surprised that NASCAR didn’t levy any punishment in the incident.
“Our new (title) sponsor, Monster, they’re an edgy brand,” Larson said. “I think what you saw last week was edgy. I don’t know, though. It’s just hard. They used to penalize people for that and now they don’t.”
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