You won’t get a clear answer one way or the other on this one.
With four laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway, Chase Elliott had the lead. All he had to do was go four more laps as he had all afternoon, and he’d win. It would be his first-ever Cup Series win, but perhaps more importantly, it would have earned him an automatic berth to race for a championship in three weeks. The crowd, recognizing the gravity of the moment, began cheering harder than they had all afternoon for Elliott to complete the perfect story.
Only he didn’t. Instead of celebrating in Victory Lane and basking in his accomplishment, this happened: Denny Hamlin, also hoping to be one of the four championship contenders, rode up on Elliott’s back bumper and pushed him. The hit sent Elliott straight into the wall, crashing him and costing him both the win and the spot in the championship race. He ended up finishing 27th.
So, was that dirty?
It’s hard to say.
“Life ain’t fair, bud. What’s fair and what’s not is irrelevant,” Kyle Busch, the eventual winner, said. “When it comes down to the end of the race and you’re racing for a win like that and you see the white flag waving and the door kind of cracks its way open a little bit, you’ve got to put your foot in there and go get it.
“That was our opportunity to punch our ticket to be able to go to Homestead, and Denny thought the same thing racing with the 24 (Elliott).”
Elliott, of course, did not see things that way.
“It’s just not necessary ... It’s definitely 100 percent unnecessary and uncalled for,” Elliott said. “My momma always said if you don’t have anything nice (to say) not to say anything at all. So, it’s not even worth my time.”
Elliott went on to say that the move was, “over the line,” which the fans in attendance seemed to agree with. They booed Hamlin, loudly, after the race, and cheered when Elliott went over and got in his face.
Hamlin’s defense also didn’t draw many fans.
“Well, he said I wrecked him and obviously Ray Charles saw that,” Hamlin said. “Unfortunately there is a ticket to Homestead at stake.”
Hamlin later posted an apology on Twitter.
So, was the hit dirty? It’s hard to say, and really it’s a judgment call. But one thing is for sure, and that’s that neither driver will forget about this incident for the foreseeable future.