Penske backs Logano in latest team NASCAR controversy

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NASCAR is only five races into its 2013 Sprint Cup Series season but for the third consecutive year, the driver of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-sponsored entry is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The last two years have seen Kurt Busch enter hot water with Penske after a verbal confrontation ahead of an interview with ESPN pit reporter Jerry Punch at Homestead, then last year AJ Allmendinger had his contract terminated for failing a random drug test ahead of the July race at Daytona International Speedway.

Now, Joey Logano is the latest to enter the controversy sweepstakes. His contact with Denny Hamlin at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Sunday left Hamlin hospitalized with a vertebrae fracture and drew the ire – and fists – of an irate Tony Stewart in post-race.

Still, Logano’s team boss Roger Penske told USA Today Sports he’ll back his driver regardless of the situation.

“I’m 150% behind my driver, and I think he’s a real star on the team,” Penske said.

Stewart said of Logano in the same story, “It’s time he learns a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough and done this double standard, but he’s nothing but a little rich kid who has never had to work in his life.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.