Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Elliott suspended for wrecking Hamlin

- Steve Reed

CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott for one race on Tuesday, one day after the five-time most popular driver and former Cup champion deliberate­ly wrecked Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Hendrick Motorsport­s said in a statement it will not appeal the suspension and Corey Lajoie will replace Elliott in the No. 9 Chevrolet this weekend at Gateway, outside of St. Louis.

“We understand NASCAR’s need to maintain consistenc­y in its officiating,” Hendrick Motorsport­s said in a statement.

Elliott denied deliberate­ly crashing Hamlin with a dangerous left hook into Hamlin’s car during the rain-reschedule­d race Monday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin countered with simulated data he posted on social media after the crash, then double-downed on calls for Elliott to be suspended on his Tuesday podcast.

Hamlin owns the car driven by Bubba Wallace, who was suspended one race last year for deliberate­ly hooking Kyle Larson in a race in Las Vegas. The move is considered one of the most dangerous in NASCAR.

NASCAR suspended Elliott under a section of rulebook covered under “Member Code of Conduct.” Among the rules covered in that section is “removing another competitor from championsh­ip contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstan­ces of the incident.”

“It was an intentiona­l act by Chase in our opinion in our view after reviewing all of the available resources,” said NASCAR senior vice president of competitio­n Elton Sawyer on Sirius NASCAR Radio.

Hamlin said he was so furious after the wreck he wanted to go after Elliott, claiming his counterpar­t had a “tantrum” on the track and “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptab­le.”

Elliott, the 2020 Cup champion and son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, denied wrecking Hamlin intentiona­lly.

“Once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them anymore,” Elliott said after emerging from the infield care center Monday. “So unfortunat­ely not, no, just an unfortunat­e circumstan­ce.”

Hamlin initially posted data on social media attempting to show Elliott’s hook was deliberate and didn’t let up Tuesday on his weekly podcast.

“There’s no explanatio­n that he could possibly give, which he didn’t have a reason for hanging left. You know he obviously didn’t want to admit it,” Hamlin ranted on “Actions Detrimenta­l.”

“I pointed out in the data that I tweeted that once he got into the wall, there was nothing wrong with his car. He’s turned the wheel back straight, like he was going down the straightaw­ay, and you can tell by data whether you’ve got toe link damage or not,” Hamlin continued. “Everyone hits the wall. But he threw a hissy fit and he just hung the left on us in the most dangerous part of the racetrack that you possibly could and it ended my day and his, and in my opinion, he shouldn’t be racing next weekend. Because NASCAR set a precedent last year on this.”

Elliott’s loss could impact TV ratings and attendance this weekend. He is the fan-voted most popular driver in the past five years.

After Elliott broke his leg in a snowboardi­ng incident, the sport’s TV ratings took a nosedive. And when Elliott was deemed healthy enough to race at Martinsvil­le, NASCAR recognized its importance and hurried to promote his return on social media and with commercial­s.

Because of his snowboardi­ng accident, Elliott was already in a deep hole to make the playoffs. Elliott was ranked 29th after Saturday night, and the top 16 drivers make the playoff field. A win earns an automatic berth. The suspension marks seven races missed by Elliott.

Hendrick Motorsport­s said it would request it’s second waiver this year for Elliott to retain his playoff eligibilit­y. He will most certainly need to win his first race of the season when he returns from suspension to have any chance at making the playoffs.

Before the suspension was announced Hamlin implored NASCAR to “do the right thing” on his podcast.

“Be consistent here. It’s time to make the right call. There is no excuse you can give,” Hamlin added. “He was going dead straight and then all of a sudden he takes a hard left 120 degrees with the steering wheel. That is not an accident. It is intentiona­l.”

Hamlin called the move immature. “It is childish and it just (ticks) me off,” Hamlin said. “You have to be better than that. I don’t give a (darn). What goes on in your mind to think that is the right move to make, I don’t know.”

 ?? AP ?? Denny Hamlin crashes on the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Chase Elliott was suspended one race after NASCAR determined he deliberate­ly caused the wreck.
AP Denny Hamlin crashes on the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Chase Elliott was suspended one race after NASCAR determined he deliberate­ly caused the wreck.

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