Chase Elliott isn’t going to answer any questions about retaliating against Denny Hamlin.
“So, don’t even ask because you’re not going to hear it from me,” Elliott said Friday morning. “Just don’t go there.”
But the Hendrick Motorsports driver didn’t hide his lingering frustration at what happened at Martinsville Speedway.
Spun from the race lead by Hamlin on Lap 499 last weekend, Elliott ran into Hamlin after the checkered flag and then had a heated discussion with him on the backstretch. Now at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the second race in the Round of 8, Elliott said this week hasn’t changed his feelings about an accident he called unnecessary.
“I’m still pretty frustrated about it, and really as the week has gone along it’s given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead [for the title race],” Elliott said. “I think if anything else, that’ll drive you up the wall more as you think about it.
“Definitely not happy about it and I don’t think a whole lot has changed.”
Because of the accident and a 27th-place finish, Elliott comes into the AAA Texas 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBC) below the playoff cutline. If he’s to race for a championship in the season finale, Elliott must overcome a 26-point deficit or win either this weekend or at the Phoenix Raceway elimination race.
“This is a point in this round where we’re going to have to perform these next two weeks to have a chance at Homestead now,” Elliott said. “We’ll just have to do just that.”
Winning is the easiest way for Elliott to advance as well as put the Martinsville disappointment out of his mind. Last weekend was the latest chapter in his quest for what has become an elusive first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win. Elliott is now 0-74 in his Cup career and this season alone he’s either finished third runner-up seven times.
If the No. 24 team continues to perform as well as it has with stage points and should his competitors have problems, Elliott is confident he can also advance that way. But he acknowledges that’s the tougher option.
This weekend, Elliott & Co. will go about their business as usual. Disappointment aside, what happened at Martinsville is something Elliott said his team needs to use going forward.
“For us to go to a place last week that I have typically struggled at and haven’t had a whole lot of good days, to go and lead laps and to have a shot to actually win a race at Martinsville, if you would have told me that last year, I would have told you were crazy,” said Elliott. “I think it all fuels you. I think it all has to fuel you and I think it has to fuel our team, our road crew guys, our pit crew guys, myself.
“I think it has and I think it will. I think it does. I think it is. And I think that all those things are going to have to be in place and we’re going to have to bring some fire to the next two weeks to be a part of the show at Miami.”