MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The drama between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott garnered most of the attention after Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, and justifiably so.
When Hamlin dumped Elliott in Turn 3 with three laps left in regulation, the entire complexion of the race – and of Elliott’s season – change in an instant.
Overshadowed, but not overlooked, was the ongoing war between Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney, who swapped sheet metal throughout the event.
During a 121-lap green-flag run that consumed the second stage of the race, Harvick pounded on the bumper of Blaney’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, as Blaney used every tactic he could muster to keep Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Fusion behind him.
After every caution, it seemed, Blaney and Harvick would be racing in close quarters, and both ran out of patience.
During one sequence, after Harvick hit Blaney repeatedly from behind, Blaney turned left and door-slammed Harvick’s Ford down the frontstretch. Blaney later apologized to his team on the radio for damaging the car.
Both drivers were involved in a multicar wreck after race winner Kyle Busch took the checkered flag, with Harvick coming home fifth and Blaney sliding across the finish line in eighth.
After exiting their cars, the drivers had a pointed conversation on pit road.
“I just told him, I said, ‘Look, if you’re going to park it at Martinsville, you’re going to get hit,’” Harvick said. “He didn’t like getting hit, and I didn’t like the cheap shots, the brake checks and the hitting down the straightaway.
“It’s like I told him, I said, ‘If you want to race hard and you want to run into me after I pass you, that’s fine, but slamming me down the straightaway and brake-checking me is another thing.’ That’s the easy way to race.”
Blaney provided a bland explanation of the post-race conversation.
“We were just talking about how the race was and what we could do to avoid it the next time,” Blaney said.
Overall, though, it was the kind of action Harvick thrives on, and the top-five was an added bonus.
“Bent fenders, hurt feelings – I love it,” Harvick said.