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NASCAR cracks down after ugly Martinsville finish / October 30, 2019
NASCAR handed out punishment Monday following the fracas between the Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano camps Sunday night at the end of the First Data 500 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup.

NASCAR suspended Logano’s tire technician, Dave Nichols Jr., for one race after he knocked Hamlin to the ground.

Martin Truex Jr. left Martinsville Speedway furious a year ago. On Sunday, he left with a ticket punched to the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series title showdown in Miami.

Truex was dominant at Martinsville, leading 464 laps. He consistently won the races off pit road and had a very strong race car.

Pole winner Hamlin and last year’s champion, Logano, engaged in a post-race scuffle over a controversial late race incident. Logano fell out of contention for the win in Sunday’s race. Logano had emerged with a physical, take no prisoners approach to the end of last year’s race that left Truex steaming mad. Logano went on to claim the NASCAR crown in Homestead.’

Truex has considerable momentum and three weeks to prepare for the title shot. Two of the last three years the Martinsville winner has claimed the overall championship.

Truex has seven wins in 2019 and it’s his 21st top ten finish in 2019.

William Byron finished second, in his first top ten finish in four races at Martinsville.

Truex said he did not expect this level of dominance at Martinsville. “This race track in general, you don’t see that. Hats off to my eyes. Pit crew as stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments. We adjusted on early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun. I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows. But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year,” said Truex.

Truex indicated he will know in a few weeks if this makes up for last year’s disappointment, when Logano bumped Truex out of contention for the race win here in 2018. We don’t have to worry about points anymore, we can just get to work on our Homestead car,” said Truex.

As usual, NASCAR late season action and the emotions after a short track battle produced a memorable sideshow.

Hamlin was viewed as the pre-race favorite. But Hamlin, who led 30 laps, spun the 22 of Logano and created the tenth caution (out of 11). Logano, who appeared to have a tire issue, spun in turn one. The caution flew six laps, from 460-465.

Logano was frustrated at the end. “He (Hamlin) just kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day. A shot at the win for sure. We probably weren’t going to beat the 19 (Truex) but we had a top 5 for sure coming our way. But we just were able to survive there,” said Logano.

Logano and Hamlin seemed to have a civil conversation going, at least until last year’s champion shoved the Chesterfield driver.

“At the end of the day, we still got a decent finish out of it (eighth) and some points in the stages at least. But a little frustrated with the situation. I wanted to talk to him about it, and maybe I shouldn’t have shoved him at the end. It may have escalated it a little bit more. It’s frustrating. There’s a lot of passion out there,” said Logano.

Hamlin said, “we were having a discussion, everything ng was civil and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away. So that’s Joey.” Hamlin admitted he got close to Logano off of turn four. “It looks like we got together and it looks like collateral damage. He blew a tire.” Then, taking a sarcastic tone, Hamlin said of Logano, “I mean, he would probably say, oh short track racing.”

Truex, Byron, Brad Keselowski, Hamlin and Ryan Blaney completed the top five here. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Logano, Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman completed the top ten in a race that featured 11 cautions for 69 laps and three lead changes among three drivers.

Three spots remain in the playoff hunt, with the final four coming up at Homestead. Texas is next and Hamlin and Logano will have the weekend ahead to try and settle this deal.

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