Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. had differing views about what transpired between the two of them late Sunday evening at Darlington Raceway.
It started with 41 laps to go as the Southern 500 restarted for the final time. Elliott held the race lead, having taken the top spot off pit road. Truex came off pit road fourth but lined up second, to the inside of Elliott, because of the choose rule.
Elliott kept control of the race off the green flag with Truex briefly slotting in third behind Kevin Harvick. Eventually, Truex, who had dominated the race to that point, retook the runner-up position, and he and Elliott gapped Harvick and appeared to be settling the win amongst themselves.
With 15 laps to go, Truex got a run off Turn 4 and made his move to the inside of Elliott. But Truex then came up the track into Turns 1 and 2, forcing himself and Elliott into the outside wall.
“Not (expletive) clear, (expletive),” said an angry Elliott over his Hendrick Motorsports team radio.
The damage forced Truex to give up the lead and pit with 12 laps to go. As he did, and with Elliott trying to limp his car to the finish with the fear of blowing a tire, Harvick was in the right place at the right time to inherit the lead and the win.
“He had a run on me there off of (Turn) 4, and he just kind of cleared himself into (Turn) 1,” said Elliott. “He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it. Obviously, we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot.
“I ran the bottom in (Turns) 3 and 4 to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave him the run, and then he just slid up into my left front, I felt like, and on we went.”
Elliott led 114 laps and finished 20th.
Truex finished 22nd. He led a race-high 194 laps and won both stages.
“Just not enough room there for both of us,” said Truex. “I thought I had enough of a run to clear him; I think it was close, obviously. I thought I had enough momentum and distance on him that he was going to let me in there, and I didn’t expect him to be on my right rear, and I was committed. Once I figured he was still there, nothing I could do.
“It’s really unfortunate for our Bass Pro Toyota. Unbelievable job by the guys. Smoking fast race car. A lot to be proud of. I hate it for the 9 team, it was nothing intentional, just two guys going for the win and not enough room for both of us there. If it was my fault, I apologize. I really felt like I had the position to get in there to (Turn) 1, so that’s how it goes, and we’ll see what goes on from here.”