Denny Hamlin Settles Score With Brad Keselowski—Maybe
On lap 35 of the final Nationwide race at Homestead, Denny Hamlin made good on his promise to get even with Brad Keselowski. Hamlin hooked Keselowski in the rear and spun him out.
The feud between both drivers has been longstanding. In fact, Hamlin and Keselowski have tangled at various times since the 2008 season.
By Hamlin's count, Keselowski has wrecked him once at Watkins Glen last year and again at Dover this year. Hamlin also contends that Keselowski forced him into a three-wide wreck at California this season, as well as blatantly wrecking him at last weekend's Nationwide race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Keselowski on the other hand downplays his confrontations with Hamlin, stating that most of the issues are "just racing deals." Of their most recent confrontation at Phoenix International Raceway, Keselowski said, "We just got in a pushing match. I don’t really hold any grudges."
"I don’t know why he wanted to do that," Keselowski continued. "It’s just the way racing is, I guess.”
But Hamlin was not willing to let the issue go, vowing to "get even" with Keselowski the next chance that he could. His opportunity came in the early laps of the Ford 300, the season finale for the Nationwide Series.
On lap 35, Hamlin found himself right where he wanted to be, directly behind the No. 88 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet of his nemesis Keselowski. And Hamlin took full advantage, hitting Keselowski in the rear and sending him spinning.
Over his car radio, Hamlin said, "Look at this, all the guys down pit road are laughing at me. Every guy from every team that he ever took out is laughing. This is hilarious."
Even Keselowski seemed a bit amused saying to his crew over his radio, "That was fun. Give me four tires."
NASCAR, however, did not find the incident the least bit funny and deemed the pay back spin as intentional. NASCAR officials penalized the No. 11 of Hamlin one lap for rough driving.
In spite of the penalty, Hamlin finished the race in the fifth position. Keselowski also battled back from his spin, finishing in the 12th position.
After the race, Keselowski did not even acknowledge the confrontation with Hamlin until pressed by the media. He focused instead on congratulating race winner and Nationwide Series champion Kyle Busch.
When asked specifically about the incident on lap 35 between himself and Hamlin, Keselowski reiterated that he thought it was "pretty funny." But then he continued philosophically saying, "You know, I don't really hold any grudges. I'm ready to move on. Hell, I've already moved on."
"Hopefully, he feels the same way," Keselowski said of Hamlin. "I have a feeling when he wakes up in the morning, he's not going to feel any better about himself."
"He's got a lot of problems on and off the race track and I don't think spinning me is going to make him happy," Keselowski said. "That's just my take on it."
Hamlin had his own take on the incident and it was, of course, a bit different. "I feel great right now," Hamlin said enthusiastically. "It was well worth it."
"The sun was bad at that point and I'll use that as my excuse," Hamlin continued. "The fact is, I wasn't going to give him an inch."
"I thought when I went down pit road after the race that I had won," Hamlin said. "I've never seen so many crews applaud and give the 'thumbs up' on the way by."
"It just shows you all the cars he's torn up in the past," continued Hamlin. "All the teams, they feel a little redemption anyway."
"We'll never be even in that sense," Hamlin said. "I'm grateful to CJ giving me the opportunity to race this weekend and pay back my debts."
Hamlin acknowledged that while NASCAR is a self-policing sport, they also had to penalize him for the "deliberate" retaliation. "I wasn't mad about that at all," Hamlin said of his one lap penalty. "My objective was to win the race first and take care of him (Keselowski) second."
"There's going to be other days when we're racing and he's still going to think about it when I'm in his rear view mirror," Hamlin continued. "Obviously the scales are tipped a little bit more in my favor but still tipped a little bit too much."
After the race, NASCAR President Mike Helton was asked about the confrontation and NASCAR's reaction. "Our job is to maintain law and order," Helton said. "We honestly want the spirit and the character and the enthusiasm to come out but there is a point where NASCAR says 'enough is enough' and that's just the order part."
While Keselowski and Hamlin are finished with their Nationwide battles, the two are set to take the track together for the Cup finale Sunday afternoon at Homestead. Keselowski qualified in the 27th position, while Hamlin is well behind him, starting the race in the 38th spot.
Is the Hamlin vs. Keselowski battle over? It may be for now, but most likely this ongoing feud between these two drivers will not only continue but also carry over into next year's competition.
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