WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Chase Elliott didn’t need to say a word. It was clear through his silence on the radio in the final laps, his hand gestures as he talked to car owner Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon on pit road and his steely glaze in the media center how he felt after teammate Kyle Larson ran him up the track on the final restart, took the lead and won Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International.
While Elliott fumed after his fourth-place finish, he didn’t badmouth his teammate publicly, but it was clear that winning the regular-season championship — and the 15 playoff points that go with it — didn’t leave Elliott overjoyed.
Asked how he’ll handle the matter with Larson, Elliott said: “Just offer congratulations and get excited for next week.”
Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, suggested that more than that will take place between the drivers.
“What’s most important is that we have a good cohesive race team internally,” Andrews said. “I think Chase did a wonderful job postrace. I commend him, for all the frustration that was there, some of the things that could have been said. But, again, we’re going to work on it internally.
“I can’t sit here and tell you that Jeff or Mr. Hendrick or I have a plan of something to do, but we do have to have a cohesive race team going into these playoffs. That’s what we’ll work on.”
Larson said the key to the race was the choice Elliott made for the final restart with five laps left. Elliott started on the left with Larson to his right.
“I knew that was kind of my only opportunity,” Larson told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “I’m not proud of it. But being in the inside lane, the right lane, being the leader, choosing the left lane, it definitely wins out. But when it gets to late in the race, it’s definitely risky.
“Like I said, I knew that was my only opportunity to get by him. I felt like our cars were pretty equal today.”
Asked if he could have done anything different on the restart, Elliott said: “Yeah, I’m sure … it was my fault.”
Both of Larson’s victories this season have come at the expense of Elliott.
In Larson’s first win of the season — in February at Auto Club Speedway — Larson forced Elliott into the wall late in the race while contending for the win.
“I think at Auto Club it was more of an accident,” Larson said. “Today, it was hard racing at the end on a restart.”
Elliott unleashed a string of expletives on his team radio after that incident at Auto Club Speedway. Sunday, he said nothing on the radio.
So did Elliott view Sunday’s incident similarly to what happened at Auto Club?
“It doesn’t matter,” said Elliott, who led a race-high 29 laps. “The day’s done … there is nothing I can do about today. It doesn’t matter.”
He’s correct but maybe there’s something he can do on the track to Larson in future.
“Honestly I think in my position you have to expect not getting any breaks cut my way,” Larson said. “You have to weigh all that stuff out as you roll around under caution. That is all stuff that has crossed my mind.
“I think and I hope it will be fine, but we’ll see. I didn’t end his day today, but I did probably take a win from him. I think we’ve raced well in the past. The next 11 weeks, 10 weeks in the playoffs, there’s more than just me to worry about.”