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'What Really Was Going On In Your Head?' Danica Patrick Presses Denny Hamlin About Infamous Wreck

Danica Patrick clearly hasn’t forgotten Denny Hamlin's role in the 2015 incident at Daytona, and asked him about it on her podcast.

By Andrew Woodin
Next on Race for the Championship: Episode 8

Emotions revved into high gear on the latest episode of Danica Patrick’s podcast Pretty Intense when she sat down with Denny Hamlin and demanded an answer as to why Hamlin wrecked her at the 2015 Budweiser Duel races at Daytona International Speedway, providing a rare glimpse into into the inherent tensions in NASCAR friendships.

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The incident in question occurred during the second 150-mile qualifying race. With three laps to go and riding in eighth place, Patrick was well-positioned for a top-15 finish, but Hamlin's car drifted high and hit Patrick’s car not once but twice, causing her to spin out into the grass after colliding with Brian Scott and Bobby Labonte. Immediately after the race, Patrick marched over to Hamlin, grabbed his racing suit and lit him up like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

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“What are you doing?!” Patrick angrily demanded. “You did the same [expletive] thing in practice!”

Fast forward seven years later. With Hamlin as her guest on episode 164 of her podcast Pretty Intense, Patrick revisited the turbulent event, but as she found out after bluntly asking him to explain his aggressive tactics, not every direct question elicits a direct answer.

Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin talk about their in-race incident on pit road after the the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2

“Looking back at the scenario, I think you told me like, ‘You’re too loose I didn’t do anything wrong, you’re just too loose,’” Patrick says, setting the stage for her “friendly” interrogation. “Let’s just be really honest, like tell me ... what really was going on in your head? Like, is that a fact, or was it something else?”

“I do think your cars were too loose, yes,” Hamlin said. “It’s so interesting when I watch some of these cars like, Hendrick cars and stuff, and like how loose they run their cars during, you know speedway races.”

Generally speaking, “loose” in NASCAR parlance refers to when a stock car's rear tires have difficulties gripping the track as they round corners. This leads to a loss of control for the driver, causing the rear to slide out as it loses traction, essentially fishtailing. Hamlin went on to justify his aggressiveness in the moment by noting the strategy behind his style of racing.

“And I’m like … the whole way I’m going to make you go faster is me pushing you, and if I can’t push you, then I’m not going to help you,” Hamlin continued. “I’m just going to try dump you every chance that I get. I always try to push people that I feel like are very stable, their cars are stable and I can hit them without them spinning out.”

Feeling the heat of Patrick’s line of questioning, Hamlin adroitly steered the discussion away from their past fracas while attempting to take some ownership for nearly knocking her out of qualification for the Daytona 500 that Sunday.

“There’s just a group of cars, and I think at the time y’all might’ve had a Hendrick alliance,” Hamlin added, which Patrick confirmed. “They always run their cars so loose that it’s really hard to work with them. Even to this day, it’s kind of the same old thing, but you know I wanted to help. … It was just a mistake that I made, and I’ve made so many in the course of my career. … But you have to make aggressive moves, and sometimes that comes at other people’s expense.”

Whether that admission of a mistake means Hamlin's wreck of Patrick was intentional or accidental is still unclear. 

In the meantime, Hamlin has more pressing matters to deal with. Sitting in fifth place in the 2022 Cup Series playoff standings, Hamlin is currently tightroping along the cutline heading into Martinsville this weekend. And of course, he'll find himself in the familiar position of battling Hendrick drivers.

Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And you can catch up on the series now on Peacock.