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UPDATE: NASCAR won't penalize drivers for Fontana dust-ups

March 26th, 2013 2:20 pm by Associated Press

UPDATE: NASCAR won't penalize drivers for Fontana dust-ups

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart prepares for the heat races at the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series auto race at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on Saturday in Chico, Calif. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR won't penalize Tony Stewart for scuffling with Joey Logano on pit road at California and saw nothing to indicate Logano or Denny Hamlin were trying to intentionally wreck each other as they raced for the win.


In addition, NASCAR officials have given no thought to policing blocking, which is what Logano did to Stewart on the final restart to trigger the post-race confrontation.


"There are no conversations internally inside of NASCAR to look at blocking as a violation or a penalty as some other forms of motorsports do," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said Tuesday. "As good as the racing has been, as exciting as it's been, I don't know that we need to jump in the middle and screw it up."


Stewart parked his car near Logano's and angrily approached him after Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. There was some shoving, but crew members intervened before any punches landed. Logano threw a water bottle at Stewart.


Darby said the incident didn't escalate to a level where NASCAR had to take action.


"A few years ago we backed away from micromanaging drivers' emotions, you would hope in today's world that if somebody didn't win a race, they would be upset about it," Darby said. "I don't know that we've actually got a rule book that describes every push in the chest or kick in the shin. If two guys get into a hell of a fight, we're going to have to react. But a couple of guys blowing off some steam and slapping at the air is not going to get anybody in a whole lot of trouble."


As for the last-lap crash between Logano and Hamlin, Darby said NASCAR viewed it as a racing incident.


The former teammates have feuded since the closing laps of the season-opening Daytona 500 and it escalated after contact from Hamlin sent Logano spinning into the wall two races ago at Bristol. Logano angrily confronted Hamlin after the race before being pulled away by crew members.


The two moved their feud to Twitter for at least the second time this season and then came Sunday's race.


They were racing side by side on the last lap for the win when they banged into each other. Both cars spun and Hamlin's hit head-on into an inside wall not protected with energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.


He spent Sunday night in a Southern California hospital, where he was diagnosed with an L1 compression fracture in his lower back. He was back in North Carolina on Tuesday, scheduled to be evaluated later this week by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates.


"It was the last lap of the race, and the last time they were both going to see turns three and four. They were side by side. If somebody was of the mind-set to retaliate, they probably would have been lined up nose to tail and somebody would have drove into the other car and spun him around," Darby said. "In this case, that is so far from the opposite, that it never even crossed anybody's mind that I'm aware of that paid attention to the race."


Meanwhile, NASCAR is still going over data from Hamlin's accident and will need to meet with officials from the University of Nebraska, home to the engineering school's Midwest Roadside Safety experts, and IndyCar before making any recommendations on whether a SAFER barrier should be installed where Hamlin hit.


When NASCAR first began installing SAFER barriers following the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt, the priority were locations where cars frequently hit the wall. Officials at Nebraska also make recommendations not to install the barriers at certain points at a facility because of various issues, including the potential for a car to slingshot back into traffic after impact.


Track officials usually follow the recommendations.


Tom Gideon, senior director of safety research and development at NASCAR, said where Hamlin hit was not an area that cars frequently make impact.


"Each point on the track we look at the application and you don't want to put (barriers) in places where the angle of impact may not be appropriate for a SAFER barrier," Gideon said. "We also look at the possibility of impact and the frequency of impact, and when you look at the frequency of impact, especially at oval tracks, it's reasonable to think they are going to be with outside walls."


NASCAR does not race at Auto Club Speedway again this season, but IndyCar's October finale is scheduled at the track.

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