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Hamlin, Keselowski rivalry is at its boiling point

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The rivalry between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski reached its apex in last Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Phoenix, and chances are the heated feud will boil over into this weekend's season finale at Homestead.

Hamlin and Keselowski's latest on-track altercation occurred on lap 158, when Keselowski spun Hamlin while the two were battling for a top-five position.

After the race, Keselowski claimed that Hamlin got into the back of him and pushed him up the track the lap prior to their incident. Hamlin saw things differently and promised retaliation at Homestead. When ESPN pit reporter Dave Burns asked Hamlin if NASCAR should intervene, he replied, "Nah, nah, I'll take care of him, it's no biggie. I got him. He'll learn the hard way."

Hamlin later called Keselowski a "complete moron" and said he lacks respect from fellow drivers.

The following day, NASCAR officials, including chairman Brian France, had a sit-down with Keselowski prior to the Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix. NASCAR also met with Hamlin.

"It went real well," Keselowski said in regards to the meeting. "That's probably the most impressed I've been with NASCAR. I honestly will say that. I'm not brainwashed in saying that either. I really respected the fact that Brian France walked in there. That meant a lot to me. It really is the first time I've ever had a conversation with him."

Keselowski will run his first full-time schedule in Sprint Cup next year, driving the No.12 Dodge for Penske Racing.

Since the 2008 spring Nationwide race at Charlotte, Hamlin and Keselowski have clashed numerous times, particularly in this year's fall event at Dover. Keselowski's aggressive driving style has not only ticked off Hamlin, but angered several other drivers as well. If Keselowski continues to be a nuisance on the track, he might become the next Cup driver labeled as "a dart without feathers." In 2006, Tony Stewart referred to David Ragan by the same phrase after Ragan triggered several accidents at Martinsville and generated rage from many of his competitors.

Last month, Keselowski won the final Nationwide stand-alone event of the season at Memphis, but did so after causing several wrecks, including one where he spun Carl Edwards in the closing laps.

Now it could be payback time for the 25-year-old Keselowski.

Even though Kyle Busch will clinch the Nationwide championship by simply starting at Homestead, the next Hamlin vs. Keselowski bout will add at least some drama before the season concludes.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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