Long: Denny Hamlin did not need to apologize for Chase Elliott wreck

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Denny Hamlin apologized to Chase Elliott and his fans on Twitter after Sunday’s race.

It wasn’t needed.

This is what short-track racing has become, whether you like it or not. Especially with a spot in the championship round next month in Miami.

What happened Sunday night was what has happened at many short tracks throughout the country at lower levels, just that punches weren’t thrown in this case. Give Hamlin and Elliott credit for having a heated discussion on the backstretch that didn’t lead to fisticuffs.

As NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said many times, stock car racing is a contact sport. That’s what fans saw Sunday under the lights at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR didn’t issue any penalties or send anyone to the hauler after the race, thus it obviously was fine with what happened between Elliott and Brad Keselowski and then Hamlin and Elliott in the final laps.

So the apology Denny Hamlin sent after the race wasn’t necessary.

Want to be mad? Sure you can be mad at Hamlin, but be mad at NASCAR for setting up a win-and-you’re-in playoff system. Of course that’s the same system many of you cheered when it wasn’t your driver who lost a chance to win because of a similar type finish.

Give credit to Hamlin for saying that young drivers shouldn’t race like he did in the final laps, but that’s how most drivers races now and it’s not going to change … unless NASCAR wants it to change and NASCAR saw nothing wrong with the “bull—- chaos’’ in the final laps, as Hamlin called it. 

Fact is, that’s how most everyone races. Mark Martin is gone.

Let’s be honest, an apology doesn’t change things. It doesn’t put Elliott back into the lead. It doesn’t make him less angry. It doesn’t take away the fact that he’s got a major payback to deliver to Hamlin just about any time he wants. 

“I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race,’’ Elliott said. “I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all day long. There was no reason for that. He comes over and talks to me a second ago and tells me he has somebody pushing him into Turn 3. And I thought that was funny because there was no one within two car lengths of him into Turn 3 behind myself.

“We had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him, we don’t.”

Said Hamlin: “He said I wrecked him. Obviously Ray Charles saw that. Obviously it wasn’t intentional. I wanted to move him out of the way. It was just not enough grip on the race track for him to save it. He washed (Keselowski) up the race track as well. We can play favorites if we want. Unfortunately, this is a ticket to Homestead at stake.’’

Yes, there’s a limit but until NASCAR is willing to be more aggressive in how it officiates the end of these races, then what Hamlin did was fair game.

As winner Kyle Busch said afterward: “Life ain’t fair.’’

And neither is short-track racing.

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