Commentary

Petty on Hamlin: Stupid is as stupid does

Kyle Petty called Denny Hamlin's push from behind midway through Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Dover "a stupid move."

Updated: September 23, 2007, 11:50 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DOVER, Del. -- Kyle Petty knew Denny Hamlin was feeling a bit under the weather.

"I just didn't know he was hallucinating and needed three lanes to get up off the corner," Petty said after a run-in with the 2006 Nextel Cup rookie of the year during Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway. "I guess he is in a race by himself."

Petty was upset because Hamlin, who entered the day ninth in points and 82 out of first place, ran into the back of him midway through the 400-lap event and crashed both cars.

Chase contender Clint Bowyer, an innocent victim in the incident, also expressed contempt for Hamlin over his in-car radio.

Petty took his complaint to the garage, confronting Hamlin still sitting in his car while repairs were made to the front end. Petty slapped the front of Hamlin's helmet through the window before NASCAR officials separated the two.

Hamlin, who crawled out of his car to confront Petty, finished 38th to fall to 12th place, 158 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

"He's in the Chase, I'm not," Petty said. "I don't know what he's thinking. Tony [Stewart] has complained about him enough this year. It looks like somebody would have paid attention. His own teammate's bad-mouthing [him]. That's pitiful right there."

Stewart accused Hamlin of wrecking him while the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates were running 1-2 -- Hamlin was leading -- in the July race at Daytona.

That prompted a surprise visit from team owner Joe Gibbs at Chicago the following week.

"It's a shame because he's got a ton of talent," Petty said. "He's a great race-car driver. He just drives stupid sometimes, and that was a stupid move."

Hamlin, who won the Busch Series race on Saturday despite a virus, was sixth when the incident occurred. He said health had nothing to do with the accident and reminded he doesn't have a history of wrecking people.

We're racing for bigger and better things. Hopefully the one day they get it turned around I can return the favor. Right now we're the guys racing for the championship.

Denny Hamlin

"The biggest thing is I know that Kyle gets run over a lot," he said. "A lot of the reason is he's so far off the pace. I firmly believe in my heart he was trying to get out of the way.

"I was right there on the bumper on the inside of him. I think he was trying to pull low. When he did he checked up to pull low. You can't do that when somebody is right on you."

Petty said he was at full throttle and never let up.

"I was a lapped car," he said. "I let the leader by and the second-place guy by and the third- and fourth-place guy. So when he comes up I was letting him by and he ran into the back of me. If [five] guys go by and one guy can't, you figure it out."

Petty said he never had problems with Hamlin before Sunday.

"We're struggling to stay in the top 35," said Petty, who entered the race 34th in owner's points. "We already had trouble. [Ken] Schrader cut a tire and I got spun. That wasn't Schrader's fault.

"This was just stupid. That's all you can blame it on is stupidity."

Hamlin was surprised by Petty's reaction. He said if Petty slapped his helmed again he would punch him in the face.

He believes Petty is just frustrated trying to hold on to a top 35 position guaranteed a spot in the field each week.

"We're racing for bigger and better things," he said. "Hopefully the one day they get it turned around I can return the favor. Right now we're the guys racing for the championship."

Gas man injured
Art Harris, the gas man for Waltrip Racing, was treated and released from a local hospital after being hit in the back of the head by a loose tire during a pit stop on Lap 77.

The tire rolled out of the pit box and ricocheted off the side of Bobby Labonte's car.

A competition caution was called on Lap 148 to allow an ambulance to cross the track and take Harris to the hospital for evaluation.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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