There was accusing and defending and disagreeing. There were tough questions and short answers and discourse seemingly more fitting for an episode of Judge Judy than a track media center. There were chide remarks and harsh words.
And there were two drivers – Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski – doing most of the talking after their Nationwide Series crews engaged in a pushing and shoving match minutes earlier as Hamlin was getting out of his car on pit road.
As they sat behind the same table with a chair between them acting almost as a buffer, the fact that Hamlin and Keselowski finished second and third, respectively, in the event won by Kyle Busch, was overshadowed by the road that led there.
“There’s situations where, give a guy two inches to let him clear and don’t hang on his right-rear quarter panel because they get frustrated then they get pissed off and they’re going to race you hard,” Joe Gibbs Racing’s Hamlin said. “I said at the end of that race: I want to do whatever it takes to make that 88’s (Brad Keselowski) job the hardest to get around me. I’ll block to let the 32 [Busch] win if I have to because of the way he raced me earlier in the race.”
Keselowski, who is in his first full season with JR Motorsports, didnâ€™t exactly roll over against his more experienced competitor who drives part time in the Nationwide Series and full time in the Sprint Cup Series. Instead, Keselowski intentionally rammed his Chevrolet into Hamlin late in the race. Then, moments later, Hamlin veered his Toyota up the track into the left front corner of Keselowski. Before it was all over, Keselowskiâ€™s normally mild-mannered car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., gave Hamlin a bump of his own.
Under normal circumstances, such aggression might be chalked up to hard racing in the heat of battle. Only in this instance, the entire sequence of events occurred under caution.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ said Keselowski, when asked in the media center why he drove into Hamlin under the yellow. â€œHeâ€™s here. Ask him.â€
â€œAsk him first,â€ Hamlin retorted. â€œI retaliated. I didnâ€™t retaliate based on what happened earlier in the race.â€
And the drivers werenâ€™t the only ones feuding. Members of their crews had to be separated by NASCAR officials on pit road moments after the checkered flag waved as they traded words and at the very least rough shoving. NASCAR is still reviewing videotape of the scrum to determine if any punches were thrown and if suspensions are necessary.