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In the wake of the fallout from Sunday's race at California, Joey Logano said he didn't know Denny Hamlin was involved or injured in the last-lap crash when Logano made comments suggesting Hamlin had it coming.
"I just thought we were racing hard, you know?" Logano told USA Today Sports on Monday. "It happens. You don't ever want anyone to get hurt; you don't ever want anything to happen, especially to Denny. We were racing really hard there at the end of the race.
"I wish there was a SAFER barrier down there, and I wish I knew before I made any comments on TV also."
Following the race on Sunday, Logano told Fox that Hamlin, his former teammate, "probably shouldn't have done what he did last week [at Bristol], so that's what he gets."
Hours before Hamlin was reportedly released from the hospital Monday, Roger Penske bristled at "petty" barbs against Logano for his wealthy upbringing and defended his driver.
|Joey Logano is held back by crew members after an altercation with Tony Stewart following the Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.|
After the crash, Logano had a post-race altercation with Tony Stewart.
"Listen, Joey is a great driver and what happened at the end there wasn't anything more than hard racing," Penske told The Associated Press. "I stand behind him and I think he's going to go down as one of the greatest drivers to ever race."
Hamlin's car hit a part of the track where SAFER barriers did not cover the wall. He was sent to the hospital with a fractured vertebrae.
"We raced each other hard, we pushed each other up the racetrack and there were no intentions of wrecking each other," Logano told USA Today Sports. "You want to rub each other a little bit, and that's part of the race, but it's just unfortunate he hit in probably the worst possible spot he could have."The last thing I wanted to hear last night was that he was in the hospital. We're hoping for a speedy recovery and hoping that he's out there racing at Martinsville."
Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower back, which will force him to miss six weeks.
Grandiose redictions like Penske's are one reason it suddenly seems the garage has turned against the 22-year-old Logano, who came into NASCAR with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 with the nickname "Sliced Bread." He'd risen rapidly through the racing ranks with the financial backing from his father, Tom, who used funds from the family's Connecticut waste management company to help his two children pursue their dreams.
Logano had the means to pursue a racing career, and was in Georgia racing quarter midgets at the age of 6 while his older sister chased a life of competitive ice skating.
Stewart took aim at that upbringing after Sunday's race, calling Logano "nothing but a little rich kid that's never had to work in his life." The sentiment was amped up Monday when Patricia Driscoll, girlfriend of Kurt Busch, referred to Logano as "#TrustFundRacer" in a series of tweets that accused him of reckless racing with "no less than 5 drivers."
"We were lucky that none of the others were hurt by his actions," Driscoll tweeted.
An agitated Penske thought the criticism was out of line.
"He's a solid young man and his family has supported him in racing as many families of professional athletes do in every sport," Penske said. "Anyone who looks at that as a criticism, to focus on that is just petty."
Penske also defended Logano for his television interview immediately after the race when Logano said of Hamlin: "He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets." Fans have criticized Logano for the remark, accusing him of wishing harm to Hamlin.
"That's a tough thing, Joey had no idea what the situation was with Denny when he was doing the interview," Penske said. "It's one of those things that came out and, taken out of context, isn't what he meant. He can't take it back, but people are certainly blowing that up to mean something different than what he knew at the time."
As for Stewart, who nearly came to blows with Logano on pit road before the two were separated by crew members because Stewart felt Logano had blocked him?
"The comments by Tony -- he's one of the best blockers in the business," Penske said. "I've watched the video, I've seen what happened, and there's nothing there that should be an issue."Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's David Newton was used in this report.