Chase Elliott didn’t have much to say to the media about aggressively driving into the door of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson late in the September 10 race at Kansas after the pair made contact on pit road. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion denied there was an issue in a post-race interview.
However, after a day of unrelenting criticism from fans and media, Elliott addressed the sticky subject during a September 12 appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and took a dramatically different tone, expressing remorse for what happened and how he handled it.
“We obviously ran into each other on pit road, and I didn’t have the full picture of what went on, so I was frustrated. That stuff happens, for sure,” Elliott said. “At the end of the day, I’ll certainly take the blame for my frustration on that front.
“The good news is he and I can have a conversation like adults and it’s a non-issue,” Elliott said. “The bad news is it’s a non-issue. For all of y’all and everybody else that wants to talk about it, there’s nothing to talk about. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I know you guys love your drama, but there’s just none here this week.”
Chase Elliott Denied Issue With Kyle Larson After Kansas
Whether Elliott opted to make the radio appearance on his own or was encouraged by higher-ups at HMS, no one knows, but it was clearly an attempt to slow the wave of negative publicity he received after the race.
It all started on the final stop at Kansas when Elliott raced down pit road with Tyler Reddick to his outside and Larson exited his pit stall, making it three-wide. Everything was fine until Brad Keselowski pulled out of his box, briefly making it four-wide and forcing the No. 5 car to swing to its right, making contact with the No. 9 car.
That simple contact is not uncommon on pit road and likely should have been the end of it. However, it wasn’t, because moments later, after both cars had left pit road, Elliott deliberately made a left turn into Larson’s door to show his displeasure.
After the race, he walked over and had a brief conversation with Larson, who remained inside his car. Several minutes later, both addressed the situation with the media.
“From my vantage point, I knew we were three-wide leaving,” Larson said in his post-race interview on NBC. “The No. 6 was pitted in front of us, and I’m trying to leave as much space as I can. He’s coming out into the lane quickly because the No. 6 wants to slow us down. I just tried to leave as much space as I could.
“Obviously, I made contact with him, but I feel like if I didn’t, I was going to clobber the No. 6 right in the right front. I thought the safest bet for all of us was for me to squeeze out a little bit.
“I understand why he was mad at the moment. I hope when he sees the replay that he understands that I didn’t have any space or not much. Just inches. Just a bummer. I’m glad that neither of us got tore up there and we could get a good finish.”
Fox’s Bob Pockrass caught up with Elliott a short time later and asked him what message he was trying to send to his teammate by driving into his door and confronting him on pit road.
“There was no message,” the driver curtly responded.
The reporter then asked if he had a problem with Larson.
“No, no,” he said.
Chase Elliott & Kyle Larson Have a History
Elliott’s defiant refusal to acknowledge the conflict with Larson might seem strange on its face, but there’s more to the story. The pair have a history.
Last year, the 2020 champ was unhappy with the 2021 champ on a couple of occasions because he was on the receiving end each time. The first happened at Fontana when the No. 5 car made an ill-advised late block, which sent the No. 9 car up into the fence, severely damaging his car. An angry Elliott went on a profanity-laced tirade.
The second came at Watkins Glen on a late restart when Larson, who was on the inside of Elliott, drove it hard into the first turn, locked up his brakes, and went out wide, escorting the No. 9 car into the runoff area, and effectively ruining his chances at victory.
Larson went on to win the race. Elliott finished fourth and was none too pleased, sharing his frustration with team owner Rick Hendrick and HMS executive Jeff Gordon on pit road.
That history led many pundits to suggest what happened at Kansas was just a continuation of past frustrations for Elliott. He insisted in his radio interview that no such animosity exists.
Time will tell if that’s true or not.