Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick make up
Hamlin said during a Tuesday news conference promoting the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he and the Richard Childress Racing driver talked on the phone and settled the issues that transpired last weekend at Dover.
"We came to really quick terms that our friendship is solid," said Hamlin, noting Harvick is probably his closest friend away from the track. "Regardless of what happens on the racetrack, our friendship goes further than that. We do a lot for each other off the track and I feel that goes a long way."
It wasn't that way Saturday at Dover International Speedway. Harvick was angered by things Hamlin said about the RCR team of Clint Bowyer that was fined 150 championship points last week after NASCAR determined Bowyer's winning car at New Hampshire violated tolerances.
Hamlin said Bowyer's team had been warned for months that it was bending the rules -- NASCAR denied this -- and downplayed RCR's argument that the car was off 60/1,000 of an inch because of contact from another car in the race or from being pushed by a wrecker after running out of gas.
Harvick slammed Hamlin's car twice, then sideswiped it on the first lap of Saturday's first practice, earning both drivers a trip to the NASCAR hauler.
"We didn't really discuss [why]," Hamlin said of the incident. "We just discussed where do we go from here? Do we continue to chase each other around the track or do we concentrate on both of us winning a championship? Because we're both in a good spot. That's the point we came to. If we keep messing around we're going to let somebody else win this thing."
Hamlin has a 35-point lead over four-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson heading into Sunday's race at Kansas. Harvick, the regular-season points leader, is in fifth place, 65 points behind.
"We talked and everything is good with us," Hamlin said.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver admitted he may have said too much during his Friday news conference when he attacked Bowyer's team. He said the plan entering the media center was to avoid questions about the situation, but when told Bowyer referred to his car and Johnson's having to go through post-race height inspection twice the previous week at New Hampshire, Hamlin threw caution to the wind.
Hamlin said he knew when he left the interview that he'd stirred things up. He wasn't surprised when Bowyer's owner, Richard Childress, said you "can't win a pissing match with a skunk."
He also wasn't surprised when Gibbs and team president J.D. Gibbs called to tell him he said too much.
"It is hard for me not to say what's on my mind at times," Hamlin said. "Joe kind of explained that to me. Not everybody needs to hear what you have to say when you think things are going wrong. I kind of understand that.
"And listening to my own press conferences, especially from this weekend, man, it was kind of harsh. Maybe I should have just kind of deflected. I watched Jimmie's press conference and a lot of other guys before and after me and they just kind of deflected. To me I always kind of say too much at times, and get too in depth. That's the biggest thing. I say too much."
Hamlin said Joe and J.D. Gibbs were calm. Crew chief Mike Ford, who called his remarks against Bowyer's team "stupid," was not.
"Mike wasn't laughing at all," Hamlin said. "Obviously, he's a deflection type guy. He figures we have enough within that race team as far as what we need to do to stay focused to win a championship. We don't need to make our jobs any harder. He told me we made our jobs harder, and I definitely can't disagree with that."
Hamlin's day at Charlotte Motor Speedway began with artist Sam Bass unveiling a picture of what will be the cover of the track's program. Featured prominently was Harvick's helmet with Hamlin's No. 11 car in the background.
"I recognize that helmet," Hamlin said with a smile.
But Hamlin doesn't expect to see it as close up as he did in the Dover garage after Saturday's on-track incident, when the two shouted profanities at the other.
"Everything I screw up the last few years, whether it's wrecking in the Chase, worrying about where other guys are at, saying my peace, every single one of them is a learning experience," Hamlin said.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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