Denny Hamlin congratulates Kyle Larson in victory lane after Larson wins 2021 Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
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"This Is What He Does": Denny Hamlin Calls Out Kyle Larson Over Bristol Crash

Denny Hamlin has always been an outspoken guy, but now that he has his own podcast, the 42-year-old NASCAR Cup Series driver and team owner will offer his two cents on pretty much anything and everything NASCAR related. Naturally, Hamlin had to give his opinion on the incident between Ryan Preece and Kyle Larson during the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend, as it was the biggest controversy to come out of the Cup race.

Even though Hamlin says that he considers Larson to be "one of my best friends," he couldn't help but call the situation as he saw it. And, in Denny's mind, Kyle should bear the sole responsibility for the wreck that resulted in a 35th-place finish for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

"I watched it, and it looks like Kyle Larson," Hamlin said. "This is what he does. Kyle is one of my best friends, but at this point I have to call Kyle a little bit. Kyle is one of those drivers that puts you in a spot where you have to lift. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. He's done it to me a few times on a road course. He'll get tired of me contesting my position, so he'll just run me off into the grass. He'll just say, 'All right, well you either can lift or you're going through the grass over there.' And I think that he wanted to get clear of Preece, so he just gassed it up and said, 'All right, well I'm coming up and you can lift or go into the fence.' Preece didn't lift and got drove into the fence, so of course Preece is pissed. Later on in the race, he crowded Larson."

Of course, Hamlin couldn't help but compare the situation between Larson to Preece to his run-in with Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway back in March, which resulted in NASCAR slapping Hamlin with a fine of $50,000 and 25 driver points after he was bold enough to admit (on Actions Detrimental, of all places) that he purposely wrecked Chastain.

"Looked very familiar, looked very very familiar to Phoenix," Hamlin said. "But that's what racing is. I'm not saying either one of them deserved to be penalized, but it depends. Are we gonna use the precedent or not?"

"Larson's in the wrong here. I just, Preece stood his ground. He wasn't gonna take getting crowded. Wasn't gonna take being put to a decision of lift or be put in the fence. And so when he got back to Larson, he gave him the business a little bit. And Larson's mad because he's like, 'Well hey, it was an hour and a half ago, can't you just stop being a kid and get over it?' Larson wouldn't get over it. I have raced with Larson, he holds grudges when he gets back to you, there's no question."

Now, a lot of fans and pundits would probably agree with Hamlin and say that Preece got righteous revenge at Bristol. After all, Larson sent Preece into the wall on Lap 79. So, when Preece, who ultimately placed 24th, sent Larson into the wall and effectively ended his night nearly 100 laps later, it seemed like a pretty deserved tit-for-tat move (one that would also deservedly come with penalties, because that's just how NASCAR is these days). But, it's Preece's post-race comments, in which he denied any sort of retribution, that rubbed some people the wrong way.

"I don't race dirt," Preece said. "I don't know. I tried running the top. I'm the guy that runs the bottom. I know (Larson) was making speed up top. I tried to move up there and we were just too loose. I still agree that a lot of people are going to stand their ground, but by no means was that intentional. I was just trying to get all that I could."

To anyone watching at home, Preece's actions were clearly retaliatory. After the first run-in, the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford ran alongside Larson's car, shook his hand at him, and even said "game over" on his team's radio. I mean, it doesn't really get much more obvious than that. Preece later insisted that he meant nothing by his "game over" comments, but we all know better. Still, Preece's firm denial is probably for the best, since being honest would only get him in trouble with the NASCAR brass. Just look what happened to Denny after Phoenix.

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