Gibbs and Hendrick team tiffs linger

Published 1:08 pm Saturday, July 14, 2007

By By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
JOLIET, Ill. — Paging Dr. Phil: Please report to the infield.
A pair of frayed teammate relationships showed no signs of mending at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday. Denny Hamlin returned a verbal volley from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, and Kyle Busch continued to vent about being ostracized by his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports.
Hamlin said he was still upset that Stewart blamed him publicly for an incident that took both drivers out of last Saturday’s race — criticism Hamlin called ‘‘painful.’’
Running first and second early in the race, Stewart ran into the back of Hamlin’s car, then blamed Hamlin for slowing suddenly in front of him and wondered whether Hamlin knew what the ‘‘definition of team is right now.’’
Stewart wouldn’t talk about the incident on Friday, or confirm that he and Hamlin had spoken.
But despite the exchange of strong words, the Stewart-Hamlin relationship doesn’t seem permanently fractured.
That isn’t the case at Hendrick, where it already has been decided that Busch will be moving on after this season to make room for Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and Busch seems to thinks he’s being shoved out the door prematurely.
Busch complained after Saturday’s race that his teammates didn’t line up behind him to help him win. Busch reiterated his complaints Friday, saying he still thinks he’s the odd man out at Hendrick.
Busch said he and the other Hendrick drivers used to call and text-message each other, but he has been alienated lately.
Busch said he wants to win races for his crew members, but he won’t be doing any favors for his teammates if they aren’t willing to help him out.
Johnson said he was surprised by Busch’s postrace comments at Daytona.
Gordon said he planned to meet with Busch.
Johnson chuckled when he was reminded that Busch left the track while his crew was working feverishly to fix his damaged car and get back in the race at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year — perhaps not making Busch the sport’s foremost authority on teamwork.
But he’ll need to do it somewhere else.
Busch knows his complaints might further damage a public image that has been tarnished by occasional outbursts, but he doesn’t seem to care.