Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin are officially NASCAR rivals now

The two close friends have raced incredibly hard the past two-plus years.

If it looked like Kyle Larson was racing Denny Hamlin a little harder last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, it’s because he was.

Larson and Hamlin have a longstanding friendship but it’s been tested in recent years as they are both at the top of their game and racing for wins every week. But generally speaking, Hamlin has gotten the better of their recent exchanges with even his crew chief and spotter both suggesting that Larson needs to push back more.

He did at Nashville, drawing the ire of Hamlin in the middle of the race and even attempted to push him up the track on a late restart.

“Where I’m at I think, you know, Nashville’s is really the first time that I’ve got to, you know, I feel like in my mind, show that I’m over it,” Kyle Larson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Or like over the way that I’ve been raced. Now going forward I think I’m ready to move on, I’ve got zero issue at this point. I would like a little bit of respect on the race track and a little bit more room than maybe I’ve been given.

“Yeah, I think if we do that we can go back to racing fair and challenging each other fairly for wins. … I think that we are the two top teams in the sport right now so we’re going to be battling for a lot more wins together and all that throughout the races and all that.

“So, I’ve enjoyed racing him in the past, it’s just we’ve had a few run-ins. Like I said, I’m ready to just move on and go back to having fun racing each other. Nashville is what it is and like I said, ready to move on.”

So that’s a rivalry, right, Denny?

“Sure, if you want to call it that,” Hamlin said on his Actions Detrimental podcast this week.

It’s a rivalry and no matter what anyone calls it, Hamlin says he’s fine with the status quo.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” Hamlin said. “I’m fine with the way we’re racing and it’s going to keep going and it’s going to keep getting raised.”

Hamlin also says he saw Larson spotter Tyler Monn at a bar in Nashville and needled him over what happened over the radio at New Hampshire.

“I saw his spotter at a bar in Nashville and I told him to shut the fuck up,” Hamlin said woth a laugh. “…It was kind hearted. He was like ‘Hey I’m Tyler.’ I’m like ‘Oh hey, shut the fuck up.’ We were laughing at the time, so we were all out during that time. It’s all good. I’m not complaining.”

But there’s definitely a rivalry forming.

“Certainly, week in week out, the 11 or 5 are going to race for race wins more times than not,” Hamlin said. “Clearly, we see how it’s going to go, and I think that we just need to continue doing this, and we’ll just see how it all nets out.”

Dale Jr weighs in

Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered an intriguing view on the topic.

“Hamlin and Larson, there was a debate on Denny’s show about it being a rivalry. This debate has been going on for two weeks. Last week, Denny said it was not a rivalry. This week, he slipped up and said it was. So, I think it’s a rivalry. It’s been a rivalry, since way back in Pocono, when Larson ended up in the fence there. It’s been a rivalry,” Earnhardt Jr. said on the latest episode of the Dale Jr. Download. “Drivers that are in rivalries aren’t the ones to ask about it being a rivalry. It’s our choice. It’s the public’s choice, whether it’s a rivalry or not.”

Earnhardt is a television analyst and above all else, a fan so he gets a say.

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