(Photo: NASCAR Media/Getty Images)

Up to Speed: Role Reversals for Joey Logano & Chase Elliott

Bristol Motor Speedway never disappoints.  A battle for the lead that seemed to stretch over the entire last 200 laps ended with an electrifying finish.  First, it looked like Denny Hamlin was in position to win, but a jam up with several lapped cars sent the No. 11 into the wall and brought out the final caution flag.  Then Chase Elliott and Joey Logano fought for the lead in a five-lap shootout that ended with both cars in the wall.  Brad Keselowski emerged as the biggest beneficiary, capturing his second win of the season and second victory in the last three races.

As is customary with racing at Bristol, there were some hurt feelings post-race.  Logano and Elliott had a discussion on pit road about the incident which took them both out of contention on lap 498.  Trying to pull even with Logano while racing into turn 3, Elliott lost control of his car on the bottom lane and slid up the track. Both the No. 9 and the No. 22 went into the wall, opening the door for Keselowski to take the lead and drive away to victory.

Naturally, Logano and Elliott had different versions of how the race ended.

“He wrecked me, he got loose underneath me,” Logano said.  “The part that’s frustrating is, afterward, a simple apology, like, be a man, come up to someone and say like, ‘Hey, my bad.’ But I had to force an apology, which to me is just childish.

“Passed him clean,” Logano added.  “It’s hard racing at the end, I get that, it’s hard racing.  But golly man, be a man and take the hit when you’re done with it.”

And Elliott’s take?

“Just going for the win.  (I was) trying to get a run underneath him and got really loose.  I don’t know if I had a tire going down or if I just got loose on entry, but as soon as I turned off the wall I had zero chance in making it.  I’ll certainly take the blame.

“I felt like that was my shot,” Elliott added. “(Logano) was really good on the short run and I felt like I had to keep him behind me right there in order to win the race with only three or four laps to go.  I hate we both wrecked, but can’t go back in time now.”

Differences of opinion like this are nothing new to Bristol.  But what makes the Logano/Elliott crash interesting is how both drivers found themselves on the opposite end of controversial moments they have been involved with in the past.  This time, it was Logano fuming about being wrecked by a competitor while Elliott explained that he was simply going for the win.  Usually, it’s the other way around – Elliott missing out on a potential victory due to late-race chaos, and Logano arguing that hard racing with a win on the line needs no justification and requires no apology.

Note that this is the second time within a year that Logano has publicly wondered why he did not receive an instant apology from a competitor after a short track skirmish.  Last autumn at Martinsville Speedway, Logano had a disagreement with Hamlin that ended in pit road fisticuffs.  Once the dust had settled there, Logano made very similar comments explaining why he was angry.

“I just wanted to see what he was going to say, and he really wasn’t apologetic at all,” Logano said.  “That’s more frustrating when someone is like that, isn’t it, when someone wrecks you and is like, ‘eh,’ that’s not really what I was going for there.  I just wanted to see what his thoughts were, and that wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for.”

The problem is that Logano himself has never been apologetic in the manner which he described last year.  For other controversial incidents in which he has been involved, Logano has always chalked his actions up to hard racing.  No doubt drivers like Hamlin and Tony Stewart at Auto Club Speedway in 2013, Matt Kenseth at Kansas Speedway in 2015, Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2017 and Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville in 2018, all felt like Logano owed them an apology.  And while Logano did not have the same level of culpability across all those incidents, he clearly felt that no apologies were necessary.  Why then did he expect an apology from Hamlin last year, or from Elliott on Sunday?  Perhaps Logano is learning that there are limits to the excuse of “hard racing.”

Elliott, meanwhile, got a taste of what it feels like to make a major mistake and cost another driver a shot at the win.  Less than two weeks ago, Elliott went spinning into the wall at Darlington Raceway after getting hooked by Kyle Busch on the frontstretch.  Elliott, Busch, and Hamlin were all racing for the lead at the time, and the crash completely knocked Elliott out of contention with only 20 scheduled laps left in the race.  Upon exiting his car, Elliott gave Busch a one-finger salute, and the crew of the No. 9 team was quick to confront Busch on pit road after the race was cut short due to rain.

Busch made a mistake at Darlington, just as Elliott made a mistake at Bristol.  Elliott was understandably angry about getting hooked with a race win on the line but cooled down considerably after talking the incident over with Busch.  Nevertheless, a vocal minority in Elliott’s large fan base was ready to send Busch straight to the guillotine for his role in crashing the No. 9.  Busch admitted right away that he did not turn Elliott on purpose, but the argument among some fans was that Busch’s error was so egregious that it demanded payback from Elliott.  Following that logic, Elliott’s mistake demands payback from Logano, right?

The truth is that Elliott’s grounds for payback against Busch were pretty thin, as Elliott himself seemed to realize.  Seeing how his race at Darlington ended no doubt disappointed a great many people, including the No. 9 team itself.  But Sunday was a reminder that Elliott is capable of making costly mistakes too.  Drivers do desperate, risky things with the checkered flag in sight, and sometimes mistakes happen.

To be clear, the point of this piece is not to pick on Logano, Elliott, or any of their fans.  I myself would have made a similar move to what Elliott did on Sunday.  And, if I was on the receiving end of such a move, I would have wanted an apology just like Logano did.  No race car driver, and indeed no human being, is going to act 100 percent rationally all the time.

The point is to demonstrate just how quickly fortunes can change in racing.  Logano winding up as a victim of aggressive driving by Elliott, who himself was the victim of an aggressive move not two weeks ago, is the kind of unpredictability that makes NASCAR so much fun to follow.  Watching how these drivers react to each other is a reminder that they are real people with real emotions, who are capable of taking entirely different positions on similar incidents as soon as the shoe is on the other foot.  But that’s nobody’s fault.  That’s racing.  That’s life.

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Bryan began writing for Frontstretch in 2016. He has penned Up to Speed for the past three years. A lifelong fan of racing, Bryan is a published author and aspiring motorsports historian. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Southwest Florida.

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15 comments

  1. Avatar

    I don’t care what Joey or Clyde said. My eyes do not lie when I saw Clyde trying to make moves he does not have the talent to make. Clyde screwed up, but his Daddy’s is a CUP GOD to some, so all will be forgiven and never a harsh criticism of CLYDE will ever, ever appear. Much like DALE JR! What the hell was that? Really, what the hell was that hot mess? Cost himself, but Clyde will be cleared of any criticism, Joey somehow will be blamed despite what we all know we saw! And of course because CLYDE screwed up, there will be in the media a JOEY AND CLYDE “rivalry ” which will show this rotten display of ineptness for decades every Bristol spring! Yes, it was racing, but there is good racing and bad racing, and IMO that was bad.

    And BRYAN I would add, you are stoking a fire that does not exist in this circumstance, cheap BS. I get you are looking for a “story” but Clyde screwed up….be unique don’t join the chorus of propaganda! It is one thing to be raced it is another to be screwed by another’s mistake. Oh I guess everybody can bitch but Logano. Got it!

    • Avatar

      Ah you are a Logano fan, got it. Curious, where did the Clyde nickname come from? I am by no means an Elliot fan, actually don’t care for him in what appears to be the same way you do. He got his ride based on his name and instantly became the popular drive based on name and inheriting a bunch of retired JR fans. Is always talked up on the broadcasts despite doing little to deserve or earn it (although he is changing my perception on that this year so far).

      Logano has every right to complain, but he has simply wrecked people in the past and often times it wasn’t even for the win. So his complaining falls on deaf ears to many NASCAR fans. It is funny how Jimmie and Elliot both made major errors in this race and neither were scrutinized.

      • Avatar

        Chase’s given name is William Clyde, but even though some fans use “Clyde” as a derogatory nickname, he has used it himself and his BFF Blaney uses it as well.

        As far as the “error” on the part of Chase, I almost believe he didn’t care if he wrecked both himself and Logano to avoid the dreaded second-place finish. After all, “second is the first loser.”

    • Avatar

      Bro, what are you talking about? He is not adding any fuel to the fire. He is explaining how the drivers are on the opposite side of an accident that occurred while racing for the win. He is recounting instances of Joey making the same excuse in similar accidents and commenting on Joey’s hypocrisy in this situation. Read the last three paragraphs. This is far from any kind of sensational journalism that you claim it is. Joey looks foolish demanding for an apology when he never apologized to the pros he wrecked. I get that it sucks to lose like that, but what goes around comes around. This piece is pretty objective, and I can see that your frustration, however juvenile it may be, has nothing to do with this article, but rather from some grand matrix-scale conspiracy constructed to be mean to your driver. And KB I would add that it must be sad to live in such a conspiracy and expel so much anger.

  2. Avatar

    Golden Boy should feel the front bumper of a yellow Mustang this weekend at Martinsville. Now, NASCAR will punish anyone who dares touch Golden Boy so it will be interesting to see how Roger Penske deals with the sanctioning body, since he now owns Indianapolis, three of the best teams in racing, and has a much better reputation as an owner and person than legacy that is NASCAR management.
    Remember, they punished Denny Hamlin for a season after he sent Golden Boy to the third row in Martinsville. People forget before that happened, Golden Boy drove Brad K up the track after Brad gave him plenty of room.

  3. Avatar

    I don’t think there is any doubt that it was Elliott’s fault. Logano owes him one. There will be a day, and it probably won’t be long, where the roles are reversed and the payback will come. As long as it comes at the end of the race and going for the win, Elliott fans should accept it as “what comes around goes around”, but they probably won’t.

    Golden Boy…. LOL. That was the name of Jerry’s favorite t-shirt on a Seinfeld episode. So that’s all I can think of when I hear that phrase.

    • Avatar

      We both know they won’t. Elliot does no wrong according to the media and his fans. This is not the first time he has raced like this and likely won’t be the last. I will be curious if we even hear much about it next week.

      • Avatar

        Oh we’ll probably hear about it non-stop for the next few weeks in the pre-race show and anytime they are within 50 feet of each other on the track. The media loves to play-up faux rivalries and blow them out of proportion because there is often so little else to talk about. IMO rivalries, especially the bitter long running feuds, stopped being a thing once everyone started making millions of dollars a year. Hard to be too upset when you get back to your mansion and get in the hot-tub before having your filet mignon dinner.

  4. Avatar

    Being a contrarian at heart, I have a different take on the incidents at the end of Sunday’s race. Just like Logano has done many times in the past, Elliott decided he wasn’t going to lay down for any veteran driver going for the win. Chase finally figured out that finishing 2nd is no better than 22nd in today’s NASCAR world! That’s what NASCAR wants and that’s what NASCAR fans want.

    • Avatar

      Absolutely. “Win and You’re In” makes such moves much less impactful to your season once that “W” is in the books. After that, it’s just riding around waiting for the “playoffs”. Back when every race mattered, he’d have let Logano go and take the 2nd spot vs risking a sub-20th place finish.

      I wonder if NASCAR has considered mandating wrecking each other create drama/excitement if wo drivers (or more) already have a win and are battling for the lead in the closing laps?

      As for Joey, I find it ironic that “being a man, apologizing, and owning the incident” is what sent him out of playoff contention off Kenseth’s front bumper at Martinsville in 2015. If Joey practiced what he preached and simply apologized like he requires others to do, Kenseth wouldn’t have wrecked him. I’m actually surprised he approached Elliott without his entire crew (or his Daddy) there to protect him and handle any fisticuffs for him.

      • Avatar

        I was going to point out the same thing Jeremy. The win and your in deal allows a driver to push it to (past) the limit with little, if any, long term damage in the points. In fact someone could justify the possible additional playoff point for any loss of the meaningless championship points as worth the risk. None of the top drivers are going to fall below 30th, so all that matters is playoff points. That’s what I find most unfair about the current set up. Once a driver wins they can be a total jackass in always pushing the limit a bit farther than those that haven’t won.

  5. Avatar

    Oh go ahead, pick on Joey, that’s fine. As you mentioned, he is hardly apologetic when he gets into someone on the track.

    It is the same thing with people making excuses for Johnson. Stuff happens. Move on.

    • Avatar

      I’ve lost count how many cars (including his own) have been wrecked by Johnson’s desperate driving the last few years. It’s unbecoming of a 7* time Champion. Gordon handled the winless streaks without taking everyone down with him.

  6. Avatar

    how exactly is it a ” different versions of how the race ended” when both agreed it was Chases fault for getting loose and taking out both cars??