Denny Hamlin says his relationship with team-mate Kyle Busch is fine, despite Busch accusing Hamlin of costing him victory in Saturday night's All-Star race.
Hamlin was leading the race in the final segment when his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate tried to dive on his outside at the exit of Turn 2. Although the pair didn't make contact, Busch ended up hitting the wall and losing any chance of fighting for the win.
Speaking on his radio in the aftermath, Busch accused Hamlin of closing the door on him, causing him to hit the wall. A few laps later, the right-front tire of Busch's Toyota gave up and he hit the wall hard, taking Kasey Kahne out of the race in the process.
"Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin after this... race," Busch fumed over his radio following his crash. "I swear to God, I'm going to kill that [expletive]. All his [expletive] fault. I had this race won! It was won!"
The two JGR teammates met following the race and Hamlin later said he could understand Busch's remarks, which he said were obviously made in the heat of the moment.
"That's Kyle in the moment and he's said worse things about me at other times," said Hamlin. "I told him my job as the leader is to do everything I can to win that race. This race is a much different beast than a points race, and I think he understands that.
"From my standpoint, we're going to drive each other differently, no doubt about it. We've seen it in years past, guys suck each other around, guys running each other up the race track, but I felt like if Kyle had position on the outside, then definitely I should have given him the lane.
"I just basically took the air off and, like he said, he was just dumb and didn't check up. It's just one of those things."
Hamlin doesn't expect the incident to affect each their relationship looking ahead, and says that the All-Star race being a non-points event created unique circumstances that made them race each other harder than usual.
"We don't need to let it affect these team guys," said Hamlin. "They work with each other inside the race shop and the important thing for me is that everyone gets along. Right now, everything is going good between the 11 and the 18 [Busch] on the racetrack, we're both battling for race wins each and every week.
"This is like the fifth or sixth time that we've been beside each other with less than 10 [laps] to go and this is not going to be the last time. What's good is that we have an understanding of how we race each other. One thing that we do realize too is this individual race here is a different beast, so the racing of each other is always going to be a little different."
Busch led 23 laps during the night, this being the fifth time he has run up front during the All-Star race but failed to win. Out of his five starts in the event, Busch has only finished once, crashing out three times. Meanwhile, Hamlin finished the race in fourth, matching his best result in the event.