By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Harsh words from one former NASCAR Cup Series Champion to the reigning champion as Chase Elliott fires off a barrage of insults over his in-car radio at Kyle Larson when the two of them made contact on the frontstretch in the closing laps of the WISE Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
As Larson was battling Joey Logano down low for the lead with 21 laps to go in the race, Elliott was making his own move to the front on Larson’s outside. That’s when Larson shot up the track, hit Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet and forced him hard into the outside wall. Elliott immediately sank to the back of the field.
“Stupid mother f***er,” said Elliott, over his in-car radio. “He’s a f***ing idiot. I’m f***ing broke again, piece of sh** mother f***er. G—damnit. It broke that right rear, again. What the f**k is he doing man? I wasn’t even f***ing close, I’m like way, way outside.”
Elliott’s spotter, Eddie D’Hondt, came over the radio and said, “That was a di*k move by him, for sure.” That was followed by someone saying, “next time, we gonna turn left” and take Larson out of the race. The two cars have made contact before but it was especially frustrating this time because Elliott was on track to get back in the lead after an incident earlier in the race. His move couldn’t have propelled him to the win.
Larson went on to win the race and explained his side after the race to media members asking if the two drivers could put the incident behind them.
“So, I didn’t get through 3 and 4 very well. Joey did a good job on the bottom, and then we were side drafting each other, and I’m not even looking in my mirror at that point because all I’m worried about is Joey and I’m looking out of my A-post window,” Larson said. “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.
“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. It happened, and I hate that it did. I know they’re upset. But we’ll talk, and hopefully, we’ll get on the same page. I would never run into my teammate or block him that aggressively and that late on purpose.”
Larson explained how he and Elliott have a lot of respect for each other on and off the track. The two are good teammates and are often racing around each other because they are both contending for wins. But he recognized the fact that even if the two drivers put the incident behind them, Elliott would still be upset and he didn’t seem to blame him for that.
“I’m going to tell him exactly how I told you guys, and he’ll take it for what it is,” Larson said. “Either way I’m sure he’ll still be upset even if we’re on the same page or not. It’s just a conversation that we’ll have, and we’re both young, we both respect each other a lot, so we’ll both be racing for wins for many years to come. I’m not too worried about it. I think if anything it’s probably a small bump in the road. I think if things happen more so in the future, then yes, it gets out of hand. But Hendrick Motorsports I don’t think will ever let it get to that point, and like I said, we have enough respect for each other that I don’t think it will get out of hand at all.”
Jeff Andrews, the general manager at Hendrick Motorsports, said the organization will get the two drivers together during meetings this week and try to hash things out so the enmity doesn’t continue to get worse. However, it isn’t like they will just through Larson and Elliott in a room together and let them hash things out. That might not be the best scenario.
“I think certainly nothing intentional there by Kyle, and I think we’ll go back — I know we’ll go back and talk about it in our meetings tomorrow and Tuesday, and we’ll look at all the facts and we’ll look at what happened and we’ll talk about it as a company, and at the end of the day we’re going to — as we always do, we’ll do the right things for the company and get ready to go to Las Vegas in a good spot for really everybody,” Andrews said. “First, that’ll need to start from our perspective between Kyle and Chase, and hopefully they can get to a good spot and kind of step back and look at the data and really watch what happened there, and then of course as a group Jeff Gordon, Chad (Knaus) and myself and Mr. Hendrick, of course, we want to speak to them because we want to go to Las Vegas in a good spot, and certainly very proud of both of those teams. They both had great race cars. That’s the great news, right. This other stuff that happens on the racetrack, we can get all that to a good spot between those two teams, and give Cliff (Daniels) credit for standing down there talking to him a while ago, and he said after what happened, their mission is going to be to do everything they can to help Chase and that 9 team as well as our other teams get a win and get on to the playoffs.”
Following the race, Daniels went over and talked to Elliott’s crew chief, Alana Gustafson and laid out what happened from the No. 5 team’s perspective. He reiterated that Larson didn’t make the move and wreck Elliott intentionally.
“I went and talked to Alan,” Daniels said. “These guys were in the garage working on the car, so I walked over there and talked to him, said hey, we’ll take our share of the responsibility. They’re great teammates, always have been, and I know we’re all good teammates together. Like he (Larson) said, that’s nothing that he would ever do intentionally, and that’s a tough racing deal. I don’t blame Chase at all for what could have been the race-winning move, and he just told his side of the story.”
A short time later, Larson’s spotter, Tyler Monn, posted a tweet taking responsibility for not alerting Larson sooner that Elliott was coming to his outside. It’s likely that Monn’s post will go a long way in helping to mend fences in the Hendrick stable.
“Today I made a mistake,” Monn posted. “I will take full responsibility for what happened on track today. I was worried more about the 22 and not the 9. It was a late call on me it had nothing to do with Kyle.”
Today I made a mistake. I will take full responsibility for what happen on track today. I was worried more about the 22 and not the 9. It was a late call on me it had nothing to do with Kyle.
— Tyler Monn (@TylerMonn) February 28, 2022