NASCAR Martinsville 2013: Despite criticism, Joey Logano not changing driving style

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Logano says he is no longer feuding with Tony Stewart while maintaining that he will not change how he races.

Has a week off cooled the budding feud between Joey Logano and Tony Stewart?

Logano sure thinks so, as he has put behind him the post-race incident from Fontana where he and Stewart nearly came to blows after Logano threw a late-race block that kept Stewart from taking the lead.

"I feel like with Tony and I, I think it's pretty much over," Logano said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. "We have not talked to each other, but we had an off-weekend and time to relax a little bit and cool off, so I feel like that's over."

Stewart also said he is past the events of Fontana, but firmly stood his ground that Logano's penchant for blocking is going to cause further problems down the road.

Logano, however, reiterated that blocking does serve a purpose and at certain times is an acceptable form of racing.

"Late in the race, I think you're going to see that (blocking) a lot," he said. "... But early in the race it isn't acceptable for a lot of people and I don't blame them. That shouldn't be acceptable early in the race, but late in the race every spot means so much."

He also remained adamant he did nothing wrong at Fontana, saying if he was in the same situation, he would not think twice about blocking Stewart. He also stated he did not intentionally wreck Denny Hamlin on the final lap and that the crash was a byproduct of "hard racing" as the two battled for the win.

The accident resulted in Hamlin suffering a broken vertebra, an injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for six weeks.

From Logano's perspective, he is simply a hard racer who is not going to allow himself to be bullied on the race track. And if that rubs the competition the wrong way he, then so be it.

"For the last 10 laps I thought it was a great race and an awesome race," he said. "We were racing really hard and we go in the corner and I shoved up into him. I guess you can take some blame for that, but it's just hard racing.

"We're going out there to win this thing and that's what we're trying to do."

But some veterans in the garage take issue with not only how Logano races them, but also how he deals with them afterward.

Jeff Burton is one such veteran who has had difficulty with Logano on and off the track.

Burton, 45, recalled Friday a run-in he had with the 22-year-old racer a few years back where he instructed Logano to review the videotape to better understand his point of view but that he refused.

"That kind of attitude is not welcome," Burton said, and he points to the issues Logano has had with Hamlin and Stewart.

But Burton also defended Logano, calling some of the criticism he's faced recently "piling on."

"I do think that Joey has been in a position where people have been pushing him, have their foot on his back pushing him into being a tough guy," Burton said. "I think that has put Joey in an uncomfortable position for him. I think he just needs to not worry about all that and just race and be himself.

"At the same time, when he does get confronted with issues I don't think he handles it very well. He doesn't just step back and say, ‘Let me listen to what you're saying. I may disagree with you but let me listen.' He tends to resist and say, ‘I'm right, I'm right, I'm right.' ... At the same time, I think Joey is a good person. I think he is a good race car driver. I think he is a young person that is growing up in front of everybody. ... We all make mistakes as we grow up. All in all, Joey is not a bad guy. He can be a little more receptive to listening rather than arguing. Joey is not a dirty driver."

If there is a driver who can relate to what Logano is going through, it would be his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski.

When Keselowski was moving up through the ranks a few years ago he had some well-publicized encounters with some veteran drivers including Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

Keselowski believes what he went through and Logano is now going through is part of the maturation process as you become more competitive and try and establish yourself as a consistent presence towards the front of the field.

"I think it's typically old guard, new guard thing," Keselowski said. "Joey is trying to establish himself as an elite driver in this sport and trying to join that rank ... certainly, there's gonna be resistance to that and he's gonna have to fight through that."

From his vantage point, Keselowski doesn't see anything that his teammate is doing wrong and is racing no different than he has previously. The only difference being instead of running in the middle of the pack, Logano is now fighting for spots in the top 10.

"He's no different than any other race car driver, he's has had run-ins, but they haven't been as notable because they weren't as close to the front," Keselowski said. "The closer you get to the front, the more the microscope is and people start to remember your run-ins, so I don't personally feel like I've seen a difference there."

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