Commentary

Busch wins a crazy Fontana race

Updated: March 25, 2013, 9:11 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

FONTANA, Calif. -- There was a wreck between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin fighting for the lead on the final lap a week after they fought at Bristol. There was a shoving match and a water bottle thrown between Tony Stewart and Logano on pit road, followed by a lot of name-calling from Stewart.

There was a trip to the local hospital for Hamlin.

And Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the points lead after finishing second.

"I did win the race today," Kyle Busch reminded everyone in the media center as he answered question after question about how he capitalized on the latest in the Logano-Hamlin feud to win Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway. "I'm sure that might be a story."

Then he added, sarcastically, "I'm sure it's not."

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Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJoey Logano, front, got into Denny Hamlin and the pair wrecked for the second straight week.

On most days, Busch winning here is a huge story.

His manufacturer, Toyota, certainly was thrilled to finally get to Victory Lane in the backyard of its U.S. headquarters. Busch was thrilled to pull off the sweep after capturing the Nationwide Series race on Saturday.

But on this day everything that led to Busch winning and everything that happened afterward was a bigger story. As Busch noted himself, "That's part of racing, sometimes."

"That's what this sport was built on," continued Busch. "Just ask Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison."

NASCAR couldn't have written a better script if it had tried to pique interest at a time when most eyes are on the NCAA basketball tournament.

You had ex-Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Logano bouncing off each other rougher than they normally might only a week after Bristol, where there was a postrace shoving match between their crews as Logano approached Hamlin for spinning him out.

You had Stewart shoving Logano on pit road because he was upset about being blocked on the final restart. You had Logano throwing a water bottle at the three-time champion in retaliation amidst a wild scuffle.

This was NASCAR's version of March Madness for sure.

And nobody was madder afterwards than Stewart, who apparently forgot he triggered a 25-car pileup blocking to protect the lead on the last lap of last October's race at Talladega Superspeedway.

"For a guy that has been complaining about how everybody else is driving here and then [for] him to do that it's a double standard," said Stewart, who has often complained about blocking in the sport. "He makes the choice. He makes the decision to run us down there and when you run a driver down there then you take responsibility for what happens after that."

That apparently means you have to be ready for Stewart to come at you like a bull in a china shop on pit road, which he did.

"He is a tough guy on pit road as soon as one of his crew guys gets in the middle of it," said Stewart, referring to how Logano's crew separated him from Hamlin at Bristol. "Until then he's a scared little kid. Then he wants to sit there and throw a water bottle at me. He is going to learn a lesson."

And then it got personal.

"He's run his mouth long enough," Stewart continued. "He has sat there and done this double standard and he's nothing but a little rich kid that has never had to work in his life. He's going to learn with us working guys that had to work our way up how it works."

Apparently, there's a lot of deep-seeded resentment in the garage because Logano seemingly had things come easy until he got into Sprint Cup.

You also could look at this another way, as Logano was doing what he had to do to win like Stewart was at Talladega.

"If that was early in the race, yes, it was really dumb to do," Logano said. "Late in the race, it's what I had to do. I feel like I had to do it to keep myself from losing spots. If I got three wide there it was going to take my chances away from winning the race."

Logano explained that Busch spun his tires on the restart, and that he slowed to keep from passing the leader before getting to the start line as NASCAR has preached the past few weeks in the driver's meeting. That allowed Stewart to get a run, which put Logano in the position of defending his territory.

Seems Logano did what most on this picture perfect day came to see.

"That's what I get paid to do, to win races," Logano said.

Stewart should have known this was coming. Logano was fired up over having a chance to win at Bristol taken away by Hamlin. He made it clear the issue wasn't over on Friday.

He really made it clear the way he and Hamlin, who charged to the front with four fresh tires, raced each other side by side at the end. Busch referred to it as "a little dirty" the way Logano side drafted Hamlin.

Logano, who finished third amongst the turmoil, called it hard racing.

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Todd Warshaw/NASCAR/Getty ImagesKyle Busch celebrates his first Sprint Cup Series victory of 2013, and with Saturday's Nationwide Series victory, the weekend sweep.

"Would the racing be different if it weren't for last week? Most likely," he said. "But that's racing. Stuff does carry over."

Busch was smart enough to recognize the potential for what happened. Under caution earlier in the race he saw highlights on one of the infield screens of Hamlin and Logano racing each other hard.

"So I'm like, 'Oh, OK, well, they don't get along this week again,' " Busch said. "But man, I'm shocked for just everything that was going on there and how hard they were running. I mean, they both were trying to win the race, of course.

"But you know, all I kept thinking was, as [if] I was commentating from the TV booth about the whole deal, 'They're forgetting the third-place car. They have no clue that I'm coming.' "

Busch wasn't the only one. As Logano and Hamlin careened off each other, Busch and Earnhardt were closing fast.

Busch passed for the lead on the high side just before Logano's car went across the nose of Hamlin's. Hamlin's car then slid across the track and rammed head on into an inside wall.

Hamlin eventually was air lifted to a local hospital where he was alert and awake. There is some concern for his back, which has given him trouble over the past year.

Fortunately, he has an off week to recover.

"I was doing what I had to do to win the race," Logano reiterated. "I hope Denny is OK. I don't want to get somebody hurt out here."

The irony in all this is NASCAR's resident bad boy, Busch, played it calm and cool and won for the first time in 32 races.

"That happens here sometimes in California," said Busch, recalling a race Kevin Harvick won because he and Jimmie Johnson got into it. "I mean, we put on some wild races. I mean, there are some maybe, quoteunquote, dull moments through the middles. But I'll tell you, there was some really hard racing today, some good racing."

At times it was the best racing of the year.

"I felt like [Logano] and I put on a great show for the lead most of the day," Busch said. "And of course there at the end there's one hell of a battle through [Turns] 3 and 4 and then again on pit road another battle after the race."

And in the end, only Busch was smiling.

Go figure.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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