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No NASCAR penalties issued after California race

Wednesday - 3/27/2013, 3:52am  ET

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart prepares for the heat races at the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series auto race at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on Saturday, March 23, 2013 in Chico, Calif. (AP Photo/The Chico Enterprise-Record, Jason Halley)

JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Tuesday the contact between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin as they battled for the win at California over the weekend was just the kind of throwback racing he expects out of his drivers and the new Gen-6 car.

"I have said repeatedly, every minute, that contact, especially late in the race when you are going for a win, that's not only going to happen -- that's expected," France said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Both of them did exactly what I think you would do when you really, really want to win. Getting some contact, trying to race extra hard to win the race, that's what we're about."

Hamlin suffered a compressed fracture of the L1 vertebra in his lower back, and Joe Gibbs Racing said Tuesday night he'll be out a minimum of six weeks.

France, who spoke to AP hours before JGR announced Hamlin would not require surgery but needed time to heal, did not think anything was done intentionally by Logano to harm Hamlin.

"Injuries can happen throughout any race on any lap, and fortunately they are seldom," France said. "That's just part of racing."

NASCAR announced Tuesday no penalties were warranted after California -- not against Tony Stewart for scuffling with Logano after the race, and series officials saw nothing to indicate Logano or Hamlin were trying to intentionally wreck each other as they raced for the win. In addition, NASCAR officials have given no thought to policing blocking, which is what Logano did to Stewart on the final restart to trigger the post-race confrontation.

"There are no conversations internally inside of NASCAR to look at blocking as a violation or a penalty as some other forms of motorsports do," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said. "As good as the racing has been, as exciting as it's been, I don't know that we need to jump in the middle and screw it up."

Stewart parked his car near Logano's and angrily approached him after Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. There was some shoving, but crew members intervened before any punches landed. Logano threw a water bottle at Stewart.

Darby said the incident didn't escalate to a level where NASCAR had to take action.

"A few years ago we backed away from micromanaging drivers' emotions, you would hope in today's world that if somebody didn't win a race, they would be upset about it," Darby said. "I don't know that we've actually got a rule book that describes every push in the chest or kick in the shin. If two guys get into a hell of a fight, we're going to have to react. But a couple of guys blowing off some steam and slapping at the air is not going to get anybody in a whole lot of trouble."

France noted that drivers are encouraged to show their emotion and settle disputes -- which is all Stewart was doing on Sunday.

"We have no problem, and frankly encourage drivers to go up to one another to discuss whatever they think they need to that happened in the race," France said. "And then every once in a while there will be some emotions, and that's what happened Sunday and crews stepped in between them and we don't think it rose to some level of anything."

France said NASCAR will intervene when feuds go too far and when emotions run too high.

"We're not going to allow a boxing match to take place every time they have a disagreement," France said. "But on the other hand, we're not going to prevent the emotional exchanges that occur after a race. Everyone has the right to walk up to someone and say, 'What the? What happened there? What did you do that for?' And they explain themselves and usually work it out."

It remains to be seen where the Logano and Hamlin feud goes from here, although Sunday was viewed as a racing incident.

The two former teammates have feuded since the closing laps of the season-opening Daytona 500 and it escalated after contact from Hamlin sent Logano spinning into the wall two races ago at Bristol. Logano angrily confronted Hamlin after the race before being pulled away by crew members.

The two moved their feud to Twitter for at least the second time this season and then came Sunday's race.

They were racing side-by-side on the last lap for the win when they banged into each other. Both cars spun and Hamlin's hit head-on into an inside wall not protected with energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

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