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There’s certainly no love lost between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. Look no further than a couple of incidents between the pair that occurred late in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, including one in the regular-season finale at Daytona. This week the pair joined multiple drivers at the superspeedway to test the Next Gen car. Unlike most teams playing it safe and protecting their equipment before the start of the 2022 season, both Daytona 500 winners were surprisingly aggressive and revealed what could be a preview of the season-opening race and beyond. 

Joey Logano unhappy with Denny Hamlin following incident at Daytona in 2021 regular-season finale 

Joey Logano drives at Daytona
Joey Logano drives with sparks flying during the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway after making contact with Denny Hamlin a few laps earlier. | James Gilbert/Getty Images

Joey Logano was in contention late during the second Daytona race of the season back in August. However, an encounter with Denny Hamlin ended the Penske driver’s chances at victory. 

“We had a shot to win there and the 11 just threw a late block and fenced me and then I had a right rear down,” Logano said after the race. “Luckily, I didn’t take out the whole field that time, but that got taken care of the next lap, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered.”

With five laps remaining, the right rear of the No. 22 car became a shower of sparks due to a flat tire. He finished the race 23rd. Hamlin finished 13th.

After the race, a reporter asked Logano if he would remember that incident and whether any hard feelings toward Hamlin would carry over into the playoffs. “Absolutely,” he answered. 

Joey Logano talks about ‘intense’ racing during Next Gen testing at Daytona

On the first day of Next Gen testing at Daytona, cars cycled on and off the track individually, in small packs, and at one point in the early afternoon, in a race simulation with more than a dozen cars on the track. During that session, it was clear some drivers were playing it safe and hanging back, which is understandable as numerous teams have been outspoken this offseason about supply chain issues and repeatedly expressed concern about having enough cars available to start the 2022 season.  

Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, however, were not among them. The two drivers, along with several others, pushed their cars to the limit, drafting and pushing each other around the track. The 2015 Daytona 500 winner said while it made sense to run conservatively, the hard racing came naturally to him.  

“The bumping and shoving gets the cars moving around a lot,” Logano said. “Kurt (Busch), myself, Denny, and Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.), we were all out there shoving each other pretty hard. Racing like we’re coming to the end of the Daytona 500. I don’t know why we do that but it’s a race. There’s race cars on the racetrack. It turns into a race and we race each other. 

“It’s intense to say the least. I was white-knuckling a few times. I thought I’m going to wreck this thing in testing and going to wreck the whole field with me.” 

Next Gen testing could be preview of 2022 Daytona 500 and season

Could Logano’s words prove prophetic for next month’s big race? Was he having a flashback to a year ago? Last year during the season-opening race at Daytona, the Penske driver led the final lap of the race with his teammate Brad Keselowski on his bumper. 

The two were running 1-2, heading into the final turn when Logano blocked his teammate and miscalculated. The No. 22 dove hard down into the infield while Keselowski turned hard into the outside wall, collecting multiple cars in the process, including Logano, who shot back up the track. A fiery crash ensued. It was a terrible finish to the season’s first and biggest race.

This year, Logano and the rest of the field return to Daytona with a new car and a clean slate. And what they took away from their runs during Next Gen testing on the superspeedway just might be the difference be winning and losing. 

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