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Everything You Need to Know about the Kyle Larson vs Denny Hamlin Feud

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Joshua Lipowski

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The Incident

The Denny Hamlin/Kyle Larson incident at the end of the Pocono race last weekend was one of the most controversial moves of the 2023 NASCAR season. For a recap, here is the incident in question.

Denny Hamlin ran Larson up the race track and into the wall. Hamlin took the win, and Larson fell out of contention. Larson expressed his displeasure by dooring Hamlin down the frontstretch coming to the caution flag.

Hamlin after the race maintained that he never touched Larson, while Larson expressed that he felt he needed to be raced with a bit more respect. Fans showed their displeasure by loudly booing Hamlin on the cool down lap.

Larson spoke to the media post-race, and he was upset with how Hamlin raced him. He felt that Hamlin did not race him with proper respect. Regardless, Larson felt this would not effect the friendship.

Regardless of that Larson felt that he was raced unclean. He expressed that he races with “more respect” against a friend. That expectation was seemingly not met with Hamlin.

Hamlin spoke to the media following the race, and he maintained that he did nothing wrong. He expressed what he had to say about the aerodynamics of the move, and he maintained that he made absolutely no contact with Larson. Hamlin felt that he left a lane open for Larson, and it was Larson who got aero-tight as a result of the two running so close together.

They were not the only two who expressed their thoughts on the move after the race. Martin Truex Jr. spoke with Claire B. Lang of Sirius XM NASCAR Radio after the race. Truex Jr., who is Hamlin’s teammate, called Hamlin’s move “a little bit dirty.”

Everyone has an opinion on this move, but Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all took some time to digest the move. On Monday, they shared their views on the situation.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin broke the entire incident down from the restart through the incident in turn one. He breaks down everything in incredible detail given how short of a reaction time that he really had. However, with that being said, Hamlin still maintains the same sentiment that he said after the race.

I still contest we did not touch. I know it looks like it, but there is not a ding on a car, not a scratch on the [car], nowhere on the right side. From where I was sitting on the left, if there was contact, I certainly didn’t feel it

Denny Hamlin

According to Hamlin, this was not necessarily him knocking Larson up the race track. He also points out that the two cars were still side by side off of the corner, which is absolutely true. Hamlin says that he feels he would not have done anything differently.

The bottom line here is that Hamlin does not regret what happened. He feels that he did what he needed to do to win that race, and he does not feel he could have done an anything differently.

He also did talk some in the end about the aerodynamics in that situation. That is what Hamlin theorizes is what sent Larson into the wall, not his contact.

Hamlin also discussed aerodynamics when talking about passing at Pocono, which further showed that he felt this was his best option. It was hard to pass all day at Pocono, and he knew that in order to win the race, he had to make it happen there.

My only chance was to get to second place and then hope [Larson] missed a corner. Which, Kyle [Larson] is probably not going to miss a corner very often. The only chance is in turn one. After that, his tires are good. Even if he overshoots it. If he’s clear, there is no race to be had. It’s just too impossible to pass.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin clearly does not see anything wrong with what he did, but he also showed what was going through his mind at this moment. He knew that turn one was his best chance, and he had to find a way around Larson. He did find a way around Larson, but not everyone liked it.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson gave his thoughts on the situation on the “High Limit Room” sprint car racing podcast with Brad Sweet. Larson breaks down his friendship with Denny Hamlin, and how Larson feels that the incident impacts it. However, as far as the incident itself, Larson does not agree with Hamlin.

He went in there to run as close as he could to my left side, which he did hit me. I know he said he didn’t, but the replays clearly show that he makes contact with me, and then my car shoots up the race track. It was an intentional move. I don’t know that he necessarily meant to put me in the wall. I have a reason to be upset about yesterday

Kyle Larson

From there, Larson said that he would not give Denny Hamlin “an inch.” From there, Larson spent more time talking about driver respect. Long story short, Larson echoed what he said after the race.

He felt that he was owed a more respectful race from Hamlin. Larson did also bring up the Next-Gen car, however, but he did not bring up aerodynamics like Hamlin did. It came from the contact of Larson discussing how he was raced by Hamlin versus how he was raced by Martin Truex Jr.

I expect Denny [Hamlin] to race me that way. I’ve seen him to it to others, but I felt like, Martin [Truex Jr.] in that same scenario the restart before, and Martin’s probably the cleanest race car driver on the track and he didn’t pull the move, but Martin also didn’t win. I guess we’ve seen with the Next-Gen car that’s just how you have to race. You have to race like an asshole, and Denny races like an asshole.

Kyle Larson

While he did not say this the same way that Hamlin did, Larson still hit a similar note. Hamlin made that move because he felt he had to. Why? Because of the aerodynamics of the Next-Gen car.

Larson does not see this as an excuse, but it is interesting to point out this similarity. However, what does a third party have to say on this discussion? Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave his thoughts.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

For Earnhardt Jr., this was a move that was maybe a bit aggressive. However, he qualified it by noting that it’s a race for the win. Racing for the win makes this situation a bit cloudier.

I agree that it was a dirty move to door [Larson], to throttle up and just door [Larson], but it’s for the win. It’s not how you would expect to race friends, but maybe that friendship, which I’ve seen this and I’ve been a part of this on the race track, when you’ve got buddies, you use them up.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s impossible to know if that is exactly what was going through Denny Hamlin’s mind making that move, but it is interesting insight. The bottom line is that it was a race for the win. The old saying in NASCAR is “Bring me home the checkered flag, or bring me home the steering wheel”.

When the opportunities come to win a race, then drivers tend to do whatever they need to do to win races. If the trophy is brought home at the end of the day, then it’s a successful day.

However, the most interesting take Earnhardt Jr. had was about NASCAR today. Moves like this, he feels, are good for the sport. He feels NASCAR is in a good place because of races like Sunday.

I cannot stop thinking about how freaking good it is right now to be a NASCAR fan, and how great these last four weeks have been. [Pocono] looked like a 1994 crowd…We need exactly what we got [on Sunday]. We need that villain. We need contact, confrontation. When it ain’t there, Good Lord it’s boring.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

People are talking about what happened last weekend. Earnhardt Jr. feels that the weekend and the race was a success for the sport as a whole. Controversy like this is entertaining to a lot of people.

So, even though Earnhardt Jr. had a thought on the incident, he looks more at it in terms of how it impacts the sport as a whole. He feels that this incident impacted the sport positively.

Conclusion

Everybody has an opinion on the incident, and the debate will continue to go on about it. Regardless of that, people will be watching very closely when Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin will be on track together next.

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Joshua Lipowski

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