DOVER, Del. – Perhaps it was best Kyle Petty and Denny Hamlin never stood toe-to-toe.
Given the chance, Hamlin said their altercation in the garage area during Sunday’s Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway could have escalated into much more.
“Don’t smack me in the helmet. You smack me in the helmet I’m going to punch you in the face,” Hamlin said following the race. “I’d like for him to call me sometime this week before next race.
“You don’t come to my car. You don’t come to my pit. You meet me someplace else and we’ll settle it. I have the utmost respect for Kyle, but don’t lay your hands on my head. I did not say one thing to him. He chose to slap my helmet. I have a short fuse. Don’t do that.”
On Lap 204 of 400, Hamlin appeared to come up and catch Petty as he was moving down the track. Hamlin’s front bumper plowed into the rear of Petty’s No. 45 Dodge and the two also collected Clint Bowyer in the incident.
Both Petty and Hamlin drove into the garage and while Hamlin was sitting in his seat and his crew working on his car, Petty came up and engaged in a finger-pointing conversation with Hamlin, which ended with Petty slapping the visor down on Hamlin’s helmet.
After Petty walked away, Hamlin took off his gloves and helmet, got out of his car and started to take off after Petty, but a NASCAR official restrained him.
“I guess it’s my fault. I watched the Busch race yesterday and I knew Denny was sick, but I just didn’t know he was hallucinating and needed three lanes to get up off the corner because he ran all over us,” Petty said after the incident.
“I guess he is in a race by himself. I just told him he was in the Chase and I’m not. It’s a shame that a guy with that much talent has to drive like that. We’ve seen it a lot. We’ve seen it all year long. Even his teammate, Tony Stewart, talked about it.”
Hamlin said it was incumbent on Petty, then a lapped car, to make way for lead-lap cars.
“I firmly believe in my heart that he was trying to get out of way,” he said. “We’re in a clutter of leaders and he is racing his own little battle. Some days it’s your day and some days it’s not – just get out the way.”