Kyle Larson Jul 22, 2023; Long Pond, Pennsylvania, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson walks on pit road during practice and qualifying for the 400 at Pocono Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Larson survived a spin earlier in the 400 at Pocono Raceway to be up front late. Larson held strong on older tires and stayed in front after some late restarts.

However, with seven laps to go, Denny Hamlin pushed his friend Larson up front. Hamlin took his momentum to get underneath Larson and sent him toward the wall coming out of Turn 1. Larson hit the wall and reacted by forcing Hamlin down to the apron on the Long Pond Straight. A caution came out right after, and Larson hit Hamlin on the frontstretch to show he didn’t like what happened.

Larson continued and finished third, but his car was damaged enough that he couldn’t get back to Hamlin. As Hamlin celebrated and was showered with boos from the crowd, he explained in his winner’s interview that both Larson and Alex Bowman, who spun in front of Hamlin just a few laps before, “wrecked themselves.”

Larson had a different interpretation of what happened. Larson felt Hamlin wrecked him, and while his friendship with Hamlin won’t change, he felt he deserved to be mad about it and thinks he has to race Hamlin differently. Larson pointed out that Hamlin did the same thing to Ross Chastain at last year’s Pocono race.

What Hamlin did is something that top racers sometimes do. Hamlin technically didn’t wreck Larson, as he left Larson a lane, but Hamlin put Larson in a position where he either had to stay in the gas and hit the wall or let off the gas and let Hamlin by. It’s the final few laps, and if Larson lets off the gas, he loses.

Plenty of racers, past and present, did and do things like that to great success. Ayrton Senna did that in Formula 1. While it sometimes led to him being crashed as well, it also helped him become a three-time World Champion.

Larson did something similar earlier this season. At the Bristol Dirt Race, Larson pinched Ryan Preece toward the wall. Larson didn’t wreck Preece either, but he gave Preece the option to either back off and give Larson the position or stay in the gas and hit the wall. Preece chose to hit the wall and then put Larson in the wall later in the race. Hamlin even criticized Larson for pulling that move on Preece on his Actions Detrimental podcast back in April.

When it comes to Hamlin and Larson, there are various levels to both of them being in the wrong here. Larson got screwed, but he’s done something similar before. And while it’s okay to be mad about this because it was probably a win taken away, Larson doesn’t exactly have a clean record.

For Hamlin, he may not have turned Larson, but both his wins this season came as a result of Larson crashing from the lead. The Kansas race was much more of a racing incident, and an argument could be made that the Pocono win was a racing incident, but when it happens twice in three months, even racing incidents can be seen as something more than that if it happens often enough.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes in the immediate future.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp