Sunday, March 18, 2018

Busch wins feud-filled NASCAR race at Fontana

FONTANA, Calif. — Denny Hamlin was airlifted to a hospital Sunday after his car collided with Joey Logano's on the last lap while NASCAR's newest rivals raced for the win at the Auto Club 400 at Fontana on Sunday.

But Logano has an even bigger worry than Hamlin, whose team expects him to be fine: Tony Stewart threatened to "whoop his (butt)" after the 22-year-old aggressively blocked Stewart, 41, on a late restart.

"It's time he learns a lesson," the three-time Sprint Cup series champion said. "He's run his mouth long enough. He's nothing but a little rich kid that's never had to work in his life. So he's going to learn what us working guys who had to work our way up (know about) how it works."

Almost forgotten was Kyle Busch earning his first victory of the season when he passed the wrecked Hamlin and Logano on the final turn.

But the final lap was a spectacle pitting Hamlin against Logano, their cars side by side in their first race since the drivers confronted each other last week.

After their cars bumped Sunday on the final turn, Logano hit the outside wall and finished third. Hamlin never made it to the line and finished 25th.

Stewart ran over to Logano's car and shoved Logano, who then threw a water bottle, Stewart said.

Stewart, who finished 22nd, was replaced by Logano at Joe Gibbs Racing when Stewart formed his own team in 2009.

"What the hell do you think I was mad about?" Stewart asked.

Busch led the most laps and took advantage of his stroke of luck to pick up JGR's first victory at Fontana, the only track at which the team hadn't won. Toyota also got its first Fontana win.

"They forgot about me. I knew they were going to," said Busch, who earned his ninth weekend sweep by also winning Saturday's Nationwide race. "I was just hoping I could get by before they took me with them" in the crash.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second and took over the lead in the points standings despite falling from third to 22nd late in the race with a slow pit stop.

But all eyes were on Hamlin and Logano. Last week at Bristol, Hamlin spun Logano while Logano was racing for the late lead. Hamlin said Logano cut him off three times earlier in the race. Logano leaned in Hamlin's window for an angry exchange.

Their final-lap theatrics at Fontana appeared to be motivated by winning on the wide 2-mile track. Hamlin got the worst of the crash, his car going head-on into the inside wall.

"He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets," Logano said. "We were super fast, led a lot of laps. Nothing to hang our head down about. That's for sure."

Hamlin got out of the car but slumped to the ground beside it. NASCAR didn't immediately have an update on his condition, but JGR president J.D. Gibbs said he believed Hamlin will be fine.

Logano then got into the shoving match with Stewart. Logano went extremely low to block him on a late restart. Stewart responded to interview questions with a series of expletives.

"I had to throw the block," Logano said. "That was a race for the lead. I felt if (Stewart) got underneath me, that was going to be the end of my opportunity to win the race."

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 135.351 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 57 minutes, 19 seconds

Margin of victory: Under caution

Caution flags: 9 for 35 laps

Lead changes: 17 among eight drivers

Lap leaders: Kenseth 1-10; Kyle Busch 11-30; Kvapil 31; Kyle Busch 32-43; Logano 44-67; Kyle Busch 68; Harvick 69; Stewart 70-75; Kyle Busch 76-92; Hamlin 93-95; Kyle Busch 96-121; Logano 122-132; Ragan 133; Stewart 134-145; Kyle Busch 146-193; Logano 194-199; Kyle Busch 200.

Sprint Cup points

After five of 36 races. The top 10 in points plus two wild cards after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Dale Earnhardt Jr.199—

Brad Keselowski18712

Jimmie Johnson18316

Carl Edwards16435

Greg Biffle16435

Kyle Busch16336

Kasey Kahne15940

Paul Menard15445

Joey Logano 146 53

Denny Hamlin14554

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today

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