Race Weekend Central

Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin Trade Paint, Words After Martinsville

Chase Elliott’s hope of a first career victory hit the Turn 3 wall hard with three laps to go at Martinsville Speedway after Denny Hamlin contacted the No. 24 car entering the corner for the lead.

As both playoff drivers went for not only a win, but a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was Elliott who came out with the short straw following the “unnecessary” hit from Hamlin.

“I don’t know what his problem was,” Elliott said. “I hadn’t raced him dirty all day. There was no reason for that.”

Hamlin, who continued on to finish seventh, crashing across the finish line, said he only meant to move Elliott up the track.

“This was a ticket to Homestead,” Hamlin said. “I tried to move him up the track and he spun out.”

Even before they entered pit road after the checkered flag, Elliott slammed his Chevrolet into Hamlin’s Toyota on the backstretch. The two exited their cars and had a heated discussion on track.

“He said I wrecked him… Ray Charles saw that,” Hamlin said of the talk. “Obviously, it wasn’t intentional. I wanted to move him out of the way and there was just not enough grip on the track for him to save it. He washed the No. 2 [Brad Keselowski] up the track as well, so we can play favorites if we want. Everybody was OK with that.”

Elliott, indeed, had a contact-filled battle with Keselowski on numerous occasions in the First Data 500 Sunday. And though the day turned to night during the overtime race, Elliott kept a level-headed approach to the race for the win with Keselowski.

“Brad and I raced as clean as I thought we could: beating and bumping each other,” Elliott said. “We had a long, hard-fought battle for the lead. That [with Hamlin] was not a battle at all. Just a wreck. He didn’t even try to move me out of the way, he just shoved me and wrecked me.”

With Hamlin being a five-time Martinsville winner, Elliott was surprised and disappointed to see the contact from Hamlin.

“The guy has been doing this long enough where that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “He knows how Martinsville is. He didn’t even try to move me out of the way. He just shoved me and wrecked me. What happened in Turn 3 was over the line.”

Leading 123 laps on the day, Elliott finished as the lowest driver in the playoffs in 27th, leaving Virginia now last in the Round of 8, 26 points below the cutoff with only two races left until Homestead.

“It’s so disappointing,” he said. “We had the best car I’ve ever had at Martinsville. We had the opportunity to go right to Homestead, and because of him, we don’t.”

About the author

Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.

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I wish Chase would have punched Hamlin in the face.

Tom B

Denny should be embarrassed for his lame, lying explanation of taking out Chase. That move has been done a lot, and not for just taking the lead. But you have to own up for it, not act like a weasel.

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