Clint Bowyer was driving along at a nice 180 mph clip and he could see out his windshield, then his engine exploded and his cockpit filled with smoke and he could not see out his windshield. It was a whiteout so sudden and so thick that he could have been forgiven for throwing his hands into the air and screaming for Jesus to take the wheel as his No. 15 Five Hour Energy Toyota Camry spun down to the apron and onto the infield. Instead, he played it cool with no screaming at all. He climbed out of his car nonchalantly and the whole thing was immediately set aside as an unremarkable non-event as the Auto Club 400 went under a caution ahead of the final fifteen laps that would prove to be the best fifteen laps of racing of this year’s Sprint Cup.
Leader Kyle Busch spun his tires on the restart and the pack started to accordion behind him. Tony Stewart went to bottom and Joey Logano moved down to prevent him from passing on the inside. We’d learn post-race that Stewart took issue with this:
“Dumb little [expletive] runs us clear down to the infield. He wants to [expletive] about everybody else, and he’s the one that drives like a [expletive]. I’m gonna bust his ass,” Stewart unloaded, fresh out of his car before hunting down Logano for a scuffle that was broken up by the crews and in which Logano allegedly threw a water bottle. Stewart again took issue.
“Then he wants to sit there and throw a water bottle at me. He is going to learn a lesson. He can run his mouth on Twitter and stuff all he wants tonight. I’ve got plenty of people that are going to watch for that. It’s time he learns a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough. 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.”
And Stewart v. Logano wasn’t even supposed to be headline drama. Denny wrecked Logano at Bristol last Sunday. A half-hearted post-race physical exchange broke out (if memory serves, Logano threw a water bottle in that one too) and a twitter war followed (these guys have a teenage fervor for social media). So when Logano and Hamlin pulled into the one and two spots with seven laps to go, NASCAR had a dream showdown on its hands.
They raced close. There was bumping and swerving and venom, flame-war venom. Off the final turn heading toward the checker, side by side now, Logano drifted up from the inside, and Hamlin allowed him some room, so Logano used that extra room to continue drifting up and wreck Hamlin down into the wall. Kyle Busch slid by them both to win quietly and comfortably.
Busch was miffed that nobody was talking about his win. Hamlin was helicoptered to a hospital. Logano was without remorse. Earnhardt Jr., who snuck into second place even more quietly than Busch had snuck into first, now sits twelve points clear at the top Sprint Cup standings. And Stewart was getting all lathered up about teaching lessons and dispatching his goons to monitor Twitter for any slights.
They all have a week off to gather themselves before the short-track battle royale at Martinsville.