Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Elliott Handed One Race Suspension After Clash with Hamlin at Charlotte

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

When the NASCAR Cup Series takes the green next Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Chase Elliott will not be a part of the field after he was handed a one-race suspension on Tuesday.

The penalty comes a day after he and Denny Hamlin had a run-in on lap 185 of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in which Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet bounced off the Turn 4 wall and then drove down the track into the right-rear quarter panel of Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, turning him head on into the outside wall of the Charlotte dogleg.

Both drivers were done for the day after the crash, with vastly different views on what had just transpired. Hamlin pointed the finger squarely at Elliott for intentionally wrecking him and called for him to be suspended just like Bubba Wallace was after wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas last fall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightaway,” Hamlin said.

“It’s a tantrum and he shouldn’t be racing next week. Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I don’t care. It is the same thing that Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exact same. He shouldn’t be racing. It’s a tantrum.”

Elliott, of course, did not see it that way.

The 11 ran us up into the fence there,” Elliott explained. “Once you tear the right-side off these things, it’s kind of over. I hate it – I thought our No. 9 NAPA Chevy was getting better.

“It was nice to be making some gains there throughout the race. Our pit stops were really good. We had some pretty good fortune to get up towards the front there. It was just trying to get to mile 600 and have a shot, so unfortunately failed to do that again.”

After the race, Hamlin continued his calls for NASCAR to park Elliott for the contact, breaking out the SMT data traces as evidence to show that the move was indeed intentional.

Hamlin continued the campaign for Elliott to be suspended on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast, explaining why the crash would warrant such a penalty.

“I squeezed him up there, no question about it,” Hamlin said. “You could see fire coming out of my car. You could see telemetry that I was slamming on the brakes to try and stop and get off of him and not make contact. But ultimately, he made contact with the wall because I forced him up there then threw a hissy fit.

“He was having a s***** day anyway, in his opinion, and he threw a little temper tantrum and decided to hook a left on us down the straightaway. And not only the straightaway, but the f****** dogleg. Like, I hit head-on. Not sideways. The worst part of the track that I could possibly hit…

“That was absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong. NASCAR needs to do the right thing and be consistent. You know, I’ve gotten the s*** end of a ton of calls, of these balls and strikes calls. It’s time to make the right call.

“There’s no excuse that you could give. He was going dead straight and all of a sudden takes a hard left 120 degrees with his steering wheel. That is not an accident. It’s intentional.”

Less than 24 hours after the incident, NASCAR indeed saw it Hamlin’s way and handed out the suspension to Elliott, keeping him on the sidelines for the race at Gateway.

“As we continued last night, early this morning, and throughout the day to gather data, we’ve arrived at a one-race suspension for Chase,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, Elton Sawyer.

“We take this very seriously. After looking at all the available resources, in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us steering, gives us throttle, gives us braking, it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

With Elliott now on the sidelines, Corey LaJoie will serve as the fill-in driver in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on Sunday. Calls have long come for LaJoie to get a shot with a big-time team and he will get that chance this weekend in the Enjoy Illinois 300.

“Going from that guy just trying to swim and stay above water and try and learn the ropes, to filling in for a champion like Chase Elliott for Hendrick Motorsports, just feels surreal to say,” LaJoie said of the opportunity.

Hendrick released a statement afterwards that they would not appeal the penalty, but would submit a request for a waiver to keep Elliott eligible for the Playoffs.

Elliott previously missed six races earlier in the season while recovering from a leg injury sustained in a snowboarding crash. Leaving Charlotte, Elliott sits 29th in points and now having to miss another race will certainly put more emphasis on him having to win a race to be able to make it into the postseason.  

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.