The NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway featured some wild battles on the track between some of the top drivers. One particular incident, which featured Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, sparked debates about whether the teammates purposely made moves that hurt each other.
The incident occurred after Elliott rebounded from contact with the wall that dropped him out of the lead. He made a move to pass Larson and Joey Logano on the outside with fewer than 10 laps remaining, but the No. 5 moved to the right, made contact with Elliott’s No. 9, and sent him into the wall.
Larson held on to the lead while Elliott sustained damage for the second time that day. He had to head back to pit road for repairs and tires, essentially removing any opportunity to fight for the win. He also spun en route and brought out the caution flag before ending the day 26th overall.
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The Spin Will Remain a Question
When Elliott spun, Larson was in the lead and en route to his first win of the season. However, he brought out the caution flag and forced the drivers to line up for the final restart. Larson ultimately won, but he had to overtake Daniel Suarez and hold off Austin Dillon to do so. It was not a smooth trip to Victory Lane.
There were conversations about the spin following the race, especially after NASCAR tweeted out a GIF of the No. 9. Many viewers looked at the position of Elliott’s hands on the steering wheel and tried to determine whether he had intentionally spun as “payback” for the contact. Some said that his stock car was broken while others voiced a considerably different opinion.
Intentionally spinning to bring out a caution flag is subject to harsh penalties from the sanctioning body. They can be fined or penalized points, which would hurt winless drivers in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs. Despite the well-known punishments, there are multiple drivers that have done so in the past.
The audio from Elliott’s radio did not provide any indication that he would purposely spin to bring out the caution flag. The driver screamed some explicit comments about his teammate and the block, but he also said that the stock car “broke again.” Elliott then told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass that he did not spin intentionally and that he broke the toe link again after the contact.
“[Elliott] came on [the radio about it] pretty quickly after the contact with the wall, and it was a very similar issue that had happened to them early in the day with the bent toe link, and that puts a bunch of toe out in that right rear tire and rear assembly, and that makes it very difficult to drive,” said Jeff Andrews, Hendrick Motorsports general manager, during his post-race media availability.
Larson Provided His Side of the Incident
The contact between teammates and the subsequent spin obviously created questions after the race. Larson and his crew chief, Cliff Daniels, provided some answers during their post-race media availability and added some context. Daniels, in particular, shut down any notion that Elliott purposely spun by repeatedly saying ‘no’ while Larson explained that he did not purposely try to send his teammate into the wall.
According to Larson, he had no idea that Elliott was in the middle of a big run. He said that his focus was on holding off Joey Logano after some struggles in Turns 3 and 4. He was not looking behind him to see where the other cars were.
“I had a run, so I went to peel off, and as soon as I peeled off, my spotter is yelling, ‘Outside! Outside! Outside!’ And I had no clue he was even coming,” Larson told media members after the race. “Yeah, I mean, I hate that I ended his day after they worked so hard to get back to the lead lap and back in contention to win, but it was just an honest mistake on probably both of our faults.
“I should have had more awareness in my mirror. My spotter could have told me he was coming with a big run, and we would have avoided that mess. I would have probably not been side drafting on Joey as hard as I was. I would have been more so protecting on Chase than worrying about Joey.”
Larson and Daniels were not the only members of the team that addressed the situation. Tyler Monn, the spotter for the No. 5 Chevrolet, also weighed in on Twitter. He took full responsibility for the contact between the two Hendrick Motorsports drivers and said that he had made a late call.
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