Chase Elliott almost pulled it off. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was in contention for the win during Saturday nights Bristol Night race, but a speeding penalty during a pit stop sent him deep in the field and most thought that his hopes for victory were over.
Elliott had other ideas.
Charging through the field, he took the lead late in the going and seemed to be in position to win.
Elliott was leading with Kevin Harvick stalking him in heavy lapped traffic as the laps wound down. Harvick caught Elliott on lap 469, the two cars got together, and Elliott’s Chevy was sent into the outside wall. Shortly after the contact a flat tire sent Elliott to the pits and out of contention for the win.
Eventual race winner, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson moved up to second and Elliott, who returned to the race a lap down, first showed his displeasure with Harvick by bumping his Ford, then running just ahead of Harvick whose last win came at Bristol a year ago.
After the race Elliott and Harvick confronted each other on pit road and heated words were exchanged.
“I told him it was kind of a chicken shit move that he did there at the end,” Harvick later said. “We’re racing for the frickin win at Bristol. We’re three-wide in the middle and he throws a temper tantrum, like I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard. Then he pulls up in front of me and just sits there until I lose the whole lead.
“I lost so much there and then when I got behind the car I kept getting tight off the corner and I couldn’t run my line. I’m ready to rip somebody’s freaking head off.”
“What else do you say? You throw a temper tantrum like you’re two years old because you got passed for the lead and got a flat tire. We barely even rubbed. It’s all Chase’s way or it’s no way and if he doesn’t get his way, then he throws a fit. He did the same thing earlier. He let the 24 go by in the middle of the stage and then just rode around until the 5 caught me, and I was tight behind him, and we wound up getting passed by the 5.”
Harvick held on for second, Elliott finished 25th, three laps down.
“Well, it’s something he does all the time,” Elliott said. “He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks. Sometimes it does cut down your left side. Other times it doesn’t. He did it to me at Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing with me. Whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter.”
“At some point you have to draw a line,” he added. “I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it, I’m going to stand up for myself and my team and we’re going down the road.”
After their post-race interviews the drivers later cooled down and went to the No. 9 hauler for a further conversation.