Chase Elliott has no lingering animosity towards Martin Truex Jr. for the racing incident between them on Sunday night near the end of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
At the time, he was pretty animated, of course.
Truex dove under Elliott for the lead with 15 laps to remaining and put both drivers into the outside retaining wall. That allowed Kevin Harvick, running third at the time, to pass both and win the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Elliott sank to 20th while Truex fell to 22nd after a pit stop. They are 12 and 16 points above the elimination cutline entering the second race of the Round of 12 at Richmond Raceway.
The Hendrick Motorsports contender said the incident was ultimately just a byproduct of hard racing between them.
“I think we were both battling really hard for a win,” Elliott said during a Thursday video teleconference. “I think any other time in the race, I probably give him the position. In that situation, you got to know, nobody is going to let anybody in for a race win with 15 laps left. I hate that it happened. It hurt both of us.
“I don’t think it was something he did on purpose. I think we were both being aggressive. When you’re coming to a race end like that, a potential win of the Southern 500, I think I would be foolish not to push for every last inch I had the opportunity to get. It was an unfortunate end to a solid comeback for us.”
Truex called the incident ‘unfortunate’ during his own video teleconference.
“It was just kind of one of those racing deals where it was obviously really close,” Truex said. “It was pretty much going to be the pass for the win in my eyes. I feel like in that moment, we both made a split-second decision and tried to anticipate or think about what the other one would do, and I think we both guessed wrong, to be honest with you.
“Just really close, obviously, nobody’s fault. I don’t think you can really put blame on one guy. Just kind of a racing deal that was unfortunate for both of our teams.”
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Truex said he expected Elliott to lift once he pulled ahead. Elliott said you can’t expect anyone to lift with a race like the Southern 500 at stake.
“The way I look at those situations is this, I think the people who win in this series and win a lot don’t find themselves in the tough positions that we were in on Sunday night because they don’t let the guy in second ever get to that point to have a chance,” Elliott said.
“The way I view it is I can’t control what a guy does when he’s up next to me, and he can’t control what I’m going to do. But I can certainly control my decision prior to something like that happening to do a better job in extending the gap to that person behind you to where they don’t have that opportunity to be up there by you to make a mistake or to run you over, whatever the situation may be.
“I’m a believer in that, and I certainly think that I could do a better job in extending the lead in that situation to not allow an opportunity to present itself. That is the focus that I have moving forward is just trying to be better, be faster and get far enough away from the people behind you where they can’t get to you.”
All told, Elliott has always respected Truex and this one racing incident doesn’t change that.
“No, I feel like Martin and I both have a lot of respect for each other,” Elliott said. “I know from my end, I respect him – he’s a champion. I feel like we’ve had some really hard battles together, so I would hope that’s mutual. And if it’s not mutual, I still have respect for him either way.”
The feeling was mutual.
“Yeah, I definitely agree with that,” Truex said. “It was just a racing deal and we were both going for it.”
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