But the championship ramifications of that move indirectly did factor into how Hamlin raced winner Kevin Harvick, who had opened the door for a bump and run-style maneuver that Hamlin improperly executed on Elliott at Martinsville.
Hamlin declined to rough up Harvick, but it was as much about future considerations as past and current circumstances.
“I think not all people and not all drivers understand when you do have give and take, when you do get the respect of your competitors, you do get return,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver told NBCSports.com in a phone interview Friday morning. “It’s deposits and withdrawals. Last week I put in a deposit. One of these days I’m going to need to take out a withdrawal.”
When it came to payback two years ago, Elliott exacted revenge two weeks later at ISM Raceway, which set the field for the title-deciding race. After Hamlin’s move effectively ensured the Hendrick Motorsports driver would miss the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Elliott banged into Hamlin, who suffered a flat tire from their contact and hit the wall in a title-ending crash.
Hamlin has no such history with Harvick and seems to be expecting more leeway if he needs to race hard against the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.
“I would think in Kevin’s mind, I’ve raced him pretty fairly,” Hamlin said during one of several interviews to promote FedEx Cares’ new campaign about distracted driving. “If anything when it comes to me and Kevin, the scales are not really tipped that evenly. I’ve gotten taken out by him quite a few times. I don’t know when I’ve ever taken him out.
“I think one time at Bristol, we got all pissed off at each other, but I had a blown tire which had nothing to do with him. He recognizes that he’s paid me favors here and there on the racetrack. In the 2016 Daytona 500 instead of trying to pass me, he just pushed me down the backstretch. I go on to win the race.”
It was Harvick who benefited Sunday with the victory that clinched a playoff berth. Hamlin already was in the playoffs by virtue of his two wins in 2019 (including the Daytona 500).
“Let’s put it all out there: It’s about winning a championship for me,” said Hamlin, who still is seeking his first championship in his 14th season in Cup. “I mean, I want to win the race. I want the five points, but I also want to win a championship. I didn’t necessarily lose the race, or lose an opportunity to win a championship last weekend.
“There’s a bigger picture to my goals. Things I need to accomplish. We’re going to put ourselves in that position again, and we’ll be a little bit more aggressive. I certainly believe that we’re running well enough we’re going to have more instances like that as the season moves on.”
Hamlin laughed about whether the incident with Elliott could have been a factor Sunday.
“Trust me when I’m running (Harvick) down, and I’m coming to the white there’s no way I’m thinking back to two years ago into Turn 1,” Hamlin said. “I’ve gotten asked, ‘What if (Harvick) had a win, would you be more aggressive?’ I never thought of any of that stuff. Sure, I think about it now that it’s over with, but when you’re in the race car, you’re not thinking about anything but what can I do right now.”