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No NASCAR penalties for drivers after rough finish at Fontana

Despite a crash that left driver Denny Hamlin with a back injury and led to a shoving match between Joey Logano and Tony Stewart, NASCAR sticks with its 'boys, have at it' policy.

March 27, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • Joey Logano is held back by crew members after an altercation with Tony Stewart.
Joey Logano is held back by crew members after an altercation with Tony Stewart. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)

Signaling that its "boys, have at it" policy remains in effect, NASCAR on Tuesday declined to penalize any of its drivers after the wild finish Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The climax to the Auto Club 400 featured the feuding drivers Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin colliding and crashing on the last lap as they battled for the win, which went to Kyle Busch.

There also was a post-race shoving match between Logano and three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who was furious about an earlier blocking move by Logano.

Despite the bad blood between Logano and Hamlin, "it never even crossed anybody's mind" at NASCAR to penalize the drivers because their wreck merely was the result of hard racing, said John Darby, NASCAR's managing director of competition.

The Logano-Stewart skirmish and Logano's blocking maneuver also did not warrant a penalty, Darby told reporters.

"A few years ago we backed away from micromanaging drivers' emotions," Darby said in reference to NASCAR's doctrine of giving drivers more latitude to vent.

"If two guys get in a hell of a fight, yeah, we'll have to react," Darby said. "But a couple of guys blowing off some steam and slapping in the air isn't going to get anybody in a whole lot of trouble."

Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower back when his car slammed into an inside wall after he and Logano made contact.

Hamlin probably will be out for about six weeks while his back heals but he will not require surgery, his team, Joe Gibbs Racing, announced after Hamlin saw Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates on Tuesday.

The wall Hamlin hit near the pit road entrance was not protected by one of the soft-wall barriers that absorb some of the force of an impact. Much, but not all, of the two-mile Auto Club Speedway track has the softer walls.

Darby said that in light of Hamlin's crash, "I'm sure [the wall] will be re-looked at" and if safety experts recommend putting a barrier in that spot, "I'm sure the speedway will follow suit."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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