Last-lap contact mars finish for friends Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott

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Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott stress they’re still friends. But that didn’t diminish Blaney’s disappointment after Elliott’s last-lap contact cost Blaney a chance to win Tuesday night’s Busch Clash.

“He didn’t mean to do that,” Blaney said, “but I ended up wrecked.” 

Elliott spoke with Blaney on pit road after the race.

“We’re friends,” Elliott said. “Friends can have tough conversations.”

Blaney said; “We’re really good friends off the race track. We’re both really hard competitors and race each other really hard.”

MORE: Busch Clash results

MORE: What drivers said after Busch Clash 

Blaney led going into the final chicane when Elliott charged to the inside. They made contact. Blaney spun into the frontstretch wall. As Elliott slowed, Kyle Busch, running third, motored by to win the exhibition race on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

“I think you have to try to win the race, for sure,” Elliott said of his last-lap move. “I can’t be sorry. If I’m sorry about trying to win a race, I’m in the wrong business here. I’m certainly going to give it my best shot.

“I don’t know what you do there, I drove it in there and tried to get the inside and was going to try to roll in there kind of fast. You roll in there too fast and you jump the curbs and he drives back by you on the straightaway, or you roll in there kind of slow and we both take up one lane and somebody wrecks. It’s just a tough spot there.”

Blaney said he saw Elliott’s move coming.

“I know he didn’t mean to (wreck Blaney), but (he) drove off in there pretty deep,” Blaney said. “Personally, he wasn’t going to make the corner. It was going to be very hard for him to do it. Just a shame that we ended up getting turned around.

“Am I going to make the same move if we’re in the same position two weeks from now? Hell, yeah. I mean, why not?

But I told him if you’re going to make a move like that, make sure you at least win the race. Don’t hand it to the third-place guy.”

Said Elliott: “That’s a sure sign of not doing it on purpose when you don’t win the race after wrecking somebody. That’s just my bad. I tried to get that across. Obviously he’s frustrated and should be. I, unfortunately, can’t do anything about it now.”

Blaney’s late charge set up the last-lap duel. He restarted seventh with five laps and quickly moved to second, taking advantage of fresher tires. Blaney grabbed the lead with less than two laps to go on the 3.61-mile circuit and started to pull away. Too many mistakes on the final lap allowed Elliott to close.

“I didn’t do the best job on the white flag after I got by him,” Blaney said. “Didn’t do a good job of getting away from him. I kind of missed Turn 1 and kind of let him get to me in (Turns) 3 and 5 as well. Hit the bump real bad. I thought I was in a  good spot off of (Turn) 6 and then I hit the dang mud on the (backstretch chicane) real bad and let him get right to my bumper. That just set it up.”

That Elliott kept close to Blaney even with tires that had seven more laps than Blaney’s, was a sign of how strong Elliott remains on road courses, Joey Logano said. Elliott has won the last four Cup points races on road courses.

“If you look at (Elliott), he was probably the best car or close to the best car again, all on the long haul,” said Logano, who finished third. “Look at (Blaney), new tires, ran him down, passed him. Even if Blaney was making mistakes, he still should have drove away. That’s where (Elliott) is just better than everybody right now.”

They’ll get a chance to resume their duel on the Daytona road course Feb. 21 in the season’s second Cup points race of the year.