Off the track, Kyle Larson and 400 winner Denny Hamlin are friends, but that friendship became strained Sunday in the NASCAR Cup race’s closing laps at Pocono Raceway.

On lap 154 of the 160-lap race, the two were racing for the lead side-by-side as they exited turn one. In a move reminiscent of last year between Hamlin and Ross Chastain, Hamlin, on the inside carried Larson high and Larson smacked the wall as they exited turn one. The caution flag waved a few seconds later when Justin Haley crashed in turn one.

Under the yellow flag, Larson tagged Hamlin’s left side at the start-finish line.

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“I’ve been cost a lot of good finishes by him (Hamlin) throughout my career,” Larson said after finishing 20th. “I know he says I race a certain way. I don’t think I’ve ever had to apologize to him about anything. Not that he’s going to say sorry after this.”

Larson says that because the two are friends off the track Sunday’s incident makes it “shitty and awkward.”

“He’s always right,” Larson says. “All the buddies know Denny’s always right. I’m sure he was in the right there as well. It is what it is. I’m not going to let it tarnish our friendship … but I am pissed. I feel like I should be pissed.”

Hamlin disagreed with Larson, saying he had run him “off a bunch of road courses”, called him and said he was “sorry.”

“I’m going to stand my ground next time,” Hamlin said. “I’m not here to defend anything. I put both those guys, the (No.) 48 and (No.) 5, in an aero situation.”

Prior to Hamlin’s run-in with Larson, he was directly behind Alex Bowman when his Chevrolet spun and hit the third-turn wall on lap 149.

“Didn’t touch either one,” Hamlin continued. “How can you wreck someone you don’t touch? “They make a decision to either let off the gas and race side-by-side or hit the gas and hit the wall. I mean, I put ‘em to those decisions. I didn’t overshoot the corner.”

Hamlin maintains he always tried to leave a lane for the person he was racing.

nascar cup series highpointcom 400
Kyle Larson (5) makes contact with Denny Hamlin up into the wall at Pocono.
Sean Gardner//Getty Images

“These Next Gen cars … you get in that spot near the car on the outside, it sends them very tight,” Hamlin says. “It just tightens their aero balance. Everyone knows it. Kyle is one of the best aero blockers in our field.

“I knew once he got the lead and it was green, there was no way I was going to go around him, so I backed off and just waited, tried not to burn up my shit for a restart later because he knows how to put you in a situation to just kill your car.

“We waited. We pounced at the right time. He didn’t get his right sides clean, drove in the corner just too far, let us get beside him. I thought we were going to race it out … he got in the fence.”

Hamlin’s seventh victory at Pocono provided him with his 50th career win, tying him for 13th on the all-time list with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett. It also gave Toyota its 600th victory in NASCAR’s three national touring series. The manufacturer has 177 victories in the Cup Series, 196 in Xfinity and 227 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Logano Believes Tires Should Be Changed on the Track

A three-car accident at the beginning of Stage 2 in Sunday’s 400 at Pocono Raceway left an angry Joey Logano stranded in turn one on four flat tires.

nascar cup series highpointcom 400 practice
Joey Logano doesn’t understand why drivers are forced to drive back to the pits on four flat tires after a wreck.
Sean Gardner//Getty Images

Logano says the situation robbed him of any chance he had of returning to the race, which could have had a different outcome if tires could be changed on the track.

“I’ve brought this up before, but I guess it doesn’t matter,” Logano says. “We’ve been fighting these cars for two years now with four flat tires when a car spins out, and you get this long, horrible ride back. It’s rough! Your head is bouncing around in there. It’s stupid! It’s just really dumb that we can’t just put four tires on a truck.

“I did something for Verizon, and I saw at least 25 trucks. If we can put four tires on one of them with a jack and an impact that can just change the tires and let us come back instead of dragging the car two miles around the race track.”

Logano, who had won the race’s first Stage just six laps earlier, said the situation wasn’t fun for anyone involved. That includes the person driving the tow truck as well as “the poor driver getting his head knocked around for two miles and the poor team that’s got to fix the underbodies of these things after they get dragged around. It’s dumb!”

Logano said he talked with someone prior to the event who sees a race car once a year.

“I mean, they may be doing it for years, so don’t put it in the context that these guys don’t know what they’re doing, but the experience level of doing something every single week versus seeing a race car once a year is tough,” Logano says. “They don’t know that you can’t push a car with four flat tires on it. The car doesn’t steer. I’m trying to tell them to hook it up and they kept trying to push me. We wasted a lap-and-a-half before they tried to hook it. There’s a better way to do it.”

Angry Dillon Throws Helmet at Reddick

Austin Dillon spun twice in Sunday’s 400 at Pocono Raceway, but it was the second incident on lap 106 of the 160-lap race that left the furious Dillon throwing his helmet at Tyler Reddick’s Toyota as the field circled the 2.5-mile track under caution.

“I thought I was doing the right thing just going into the middle lane of the track,” Dillon, who finished 34th, said after walking from the infield care center. “I wasn’t on the bottom lane. I was going to hold the middle. He drove up into me from the bottom lane.

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“I’m pissed about it because from my perspective I couldn’t see him. I know I was three wide, but my left front was in front of him. So, I didn’t come down egregiously. He drove into the corner deep enough to try and get me back. That was not possible with how I drove in the corner, and he wiped me out at the fastest part of the track.”

After Reddick’s second-place finish, the 23XI Racing driver viewed the incident as a racing accident.

“We were three wide, trying to make it into the corner,” Reddick said. “I had one approach, and he had another and unfortunately, we made contact. We hadn’t had any moments today or anything really to put us in a spot where we would have intentionally run into each other.

“I knew we didn’t have a lot of room, but I definitely wasn’t trying to squeeze him or run him up the race track or anything like that. By the time I realized he was coming down the race track, I tried to get to the brake, but it was too late, and contact was made.”

Reddick said he “kinda knew” the helmet was coming so he was ready for it.

“We’ll figure it out,” Reddick says.


NASCAR Cup Series Race - 400

Pocono Raceway

       1. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160.

       2. (7) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 160.

       3. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 160.

       4. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 160.

       5. (11) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 160.

       6. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 160.

       7. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 160.

       8. (26) Harrison Burton, Ford, 160.

       9. (24) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 160.

       10. (35) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 160.

       11. (10) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 160.

       12. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160.

       13. (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 160.

       14. (1) William Byron, Chevrolet, 160.

       15. (36) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 160.

       16. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160.

       17. (16) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 160.

       18. (18) Chris Buescher, Ford, 160.

       19. (15) Michael McDowell, Ford, 160.

       20. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 160.

       21. (25) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 160.

       22. (32) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 160.

       23. (9) Austin Cindric, Ford, 160.

       24. (20) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 160.

       25. (31) Cole Custer(i), Ford, 160.

       26. (28) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 160.

       27. (12) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 160.

       28. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 160.

       29. (29) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 160.

       30. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 160.

       31. (34) Ryan Preece, Ford, 159.

       32. (30) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 159.

       33. (19) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 153.

       34. (23) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 105.

       35. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, DVP, 48.

       36. (17) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 37.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 119.363 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 21 Mins, 4 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution.

Caution Flags: 11 for 44 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: W. Byron 1-10;J. Logano 11-31;M. Truex Jr. 32;W. Byron 33-78;T. Gibbs # 79-81;K. Larson 82-95;W. Byron 96-99;R. Blaney 100-101;M. Truex Jr. 102-120;T. Gibbs # 121;D. Hamlin 122-123;T. Reddick 124-138;C. LaJoie 139-143;K. Larson 144-153;D. Hamlin 154-160.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron 3 times for 60 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 24 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 21 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 20 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 15 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 9 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 5 laps; Ty Gibbs # 2 times for 4 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,19,11,45,16,34,23,31,17,43

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,77,24,11,48,45,54,12,23,19