At the Monster Energy NASCAR First Data 500 play-offs round at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Chevrolet failed to put a driver in the top ten, even though Chase Elliott had held the lead in the No. 24 Chevrolet SS of Hendrick Motorsports with just three laps to go. Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, nudged Elliott into the wall on Turn 3 at the 0.526-mile track, spoiling the latter driver’s chances at eking out a win.
Elliott led the pack for 123 laps at Sunday’s race, second in that measure only to eventual race winner Kyle Busch. He was forced to accept a crushing 27th-place result.
Hamlin ultimately accepted responsibility for snatching victory away from Elliott, issuing the following apology on Twitter:
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) October 30, 2017
A win for Elliott would have meant automatic advancement to the Ford EcoBoost 400 play-offs finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19th. Instead, Elliott now has to make up 26 points as the field moves on to the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race,” Elliott said of the crash. “I don’t know what [Hamlin’s] problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all day long. There was no reason for that, and he comes over… and tells me he had somebody pushing him into Turn 3.
“I thought that was funny, because there was nobody within two car lengths of him into Turn 3 behind myself,” Elliott continued. “I don’t know what the deal was, but it is so disappointing. We had the best car I’ve ever had here at Martinsville. And had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him, we don’t.”
Fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson led 24 laps of the race in the No. 48 Chevrolet SS, but only managed a 12th-place finish – one position behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is not a part of the play-offs.