NASCAR America: Chase Elliott established he wouldn’t back down to Denny Hamlin

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Last year’s run-in with Denny Hamlin at Martinsville Speedway cost Chase Elliott a chance to race for the championship in Miami, and it is still a point of discussion eight months later.

Racing for the lead, Hamlin spun Elliott less than three laps from the scheduled 500-lap distance. Elliott finished 27th and did not earn enough points in the next two weekends to advance.

Two weeks later at Phoenix, Elliott knocked Hamlin into the wall. A few laps later, Hamlin cut a tire from the contact and wrecked 36 laps from the end. He also failed to advance to the title race.

How Elliott handled the contact at Martinsville and the decision to settle the score two weeks later at Phoenix showed fans that he would not be intimidated on the track.

“(The accident) basically took me out of contention to make it to the final four and I kind of felt that if (Hamlin) didn’t make it to the final four, it was fine,” Elliott said Wednesday on NASCAR America.

Two weeks after the initial contact, the two were racing for second behind Matt Kenseth. Elliott needed a victory to make it to Miami. Hamlin needed to gain points on Brad Keselowski, which would have happened even if he had fallen to third.

Elliott is still surprised that Hamlin chose to race him for the position – although he admits that even if the No. 11 had pulled over, it might not have made any difference.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “At that point in time, I don’t know that it would have helped his cause, for the record. … Even if he had let me go, I don’t know that would have fixed his problems.

“You have to treat it that way and if not, you’re going to get run over. That’s just the facts, people take advantage of you. I think the big thing is, being young … you have to establish that you’re not going to back down.”

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