Chase Elliott looks at his “racing incident” with Martin Truex Jr. last weekend at Darlington and sees a victory lost because of what he should have done differently well before the contact.
Truex ran Elliott down and attempted to pass him for the lead with 14 laps to go in last week’s Southern 500. They made contact and both hit the wall. That allowed Kevin Harvick, running third at the time, to pass both and win the playoff opener.
Elliott finished 20th. Truex placed 22nd. Elliott is 12 points ahead of the final transfer spot to the second round of the playoffs entering Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Truex is 16 points ahead of the cutline.
Elliott said his respect for Truex remains and calls the contact a “racing incident.
“I think we were both battling really hard for a win,” Elliott told reporters Thursday. “I think any other time in the race I probably give him the position. In that situation, you got to know, nobody is going to let anybody in for a race win with 15 laps left. I hate that it happened. It hurt both of us.
“I don’t think it was something he did on purpose. I think we were both being aggressive. When you’re coming to a race end like that, a potential win of the Southern 500, I think I would be foolish not to push for every last inch I had the opportunity to get. It was an unfortunate end to a solid comeback for us.”
Truex called the contact “unfortunate” in a session with reporters Thursday.
“It was just kind of one of those racing deals where it was obviously really close,” Truex said. “It was pretty much going to be the pass for the win in my eyes. I feel like in that moment, we both made a split-second decision and tried to anticipate or think about what the other one would do, and I think we both guessed wrong, to be honest with you.
“Just really close, obviously, nobody’s fault. I don’t think you can really put blame on one guy. Just kind of a racing deal that was unfortunate for both of our teams.”
Elliott said he must do a better job when leading to avoid situations like last weekend.
“The way I look at those situations is this, I think the people who win in this series and win a lot don’t find themselves in the tough positions that we were in on Sunday night because they don’t let the guy in second ever get to that point to have a chance,” Elliott said.
“The way I view it is I can’t control what a guy does when he’s up next to me, and he can’t control what I’m going to do. But I can certainly control my decision prior to something like that happening to do a better job in extending the gap to that person behind you to where they don’t have that opportunity to be up there by you to make a mistake or to run you over, whatever the situation may be.
“I’m a believer in that, and I certainly think that I could do a better job in extending the lead in that situation to not allow an opportunity to present itself. That is the focus that I have moving forward is just trying to be better, be faster and get far enough away from the people behind you where they can’t get to you.”