AVONDALE, Ariz. – Chase Elliott was not pleased after being crashed by Denny Hamlin late in the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 29.
On Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, things came back around for Hamlin after contact with Elliott led to Hamlin cutting down a tire and crashing out of the Can-Am 500.
Both Elliott and Hamlin were racing for a spot in the Championship 4 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After gaining 19 points through the first two stages of Sunday’s race on his closest points rival, Brad Keselowski, Hamlin only needed to finish ahead of Keselowski to secure his shot at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Elliott, on the other hand, had to win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 in order to race for a championship next weekend.
Hamlin dominated Sunday’s race, leading more than 190 laps, but he got shuffled out of the lead during pit stops with less than 100 laps left. During a restart with 47 laps left Hamlin managed to sneak past Elliott as they battled for third, but the battle was far from over.
Elliott, refusing to give up his shot at a championship, battled back. He used his bumper, giving Hamlin at least two shots before a third shot moved Hamlin up out of the groove with 43 to go coming out of turn four.
The two made contact coming out of turn four as they raced side-by-side with Hamlin bouncing off the wall as Elliott continued past him for third. The contact caused a tire rub on Hamlin’s left-front tire and he began to fade through the field.
Disaster would strike Hamlin with 38 laps left when his left-front tire failed, sending him hard into the outside wall heading towards turn three. His race was over as was his shot at the championship.
“We did essentially our job all day long. We put ourselves in position, things just didn’t work out there at the end,” Hamlin said. “Each person has their own opinion of how they do things and it just proves to the people that thought I was the bad guy that he would do the exact same thing under the same circumstances.
“It’s part of racing. I got into him and he chose to retaliate. I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is,” Hamlin said. “We just got behind on a pit stop and that just gave those guys an opportunity to get close.”
Elliott tried his best to win Sunday’s race, passing race leader Matt Kenseth with 29 laps left only to lose the lead back to Kenseth with 10 laps left. After the race Elliott said very little about the contact with Hamlin.
“I’m going to race guys how they race me and keep a smile on my face regardless,” Elliott said when asked about the incident with Hamlin.