NASCAR has suspended driver Chase Elliott for one race after wrecking Denny Hamlin, the series announced Tuesday. Officials ruled that Elliott acted intentionally when he made contact with Hamlin in Monday's Coca-Cola 600.
Elliott was racing side-by-side with Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway when both drove tight to the top of the turn on Lap 186 before Hamlin squeezed Elliott, who brushed the wall. Elliott swerved left in his No. 9 Chevrolet and hit the rear of Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota, sending him headfirst into the outside wall. Hamlin then spun out and ended up in the grass.
Hamlin's car was totaled and Elliott's beyond repair after the incident, leaving both cotenders out for the remainder of NASCAR's longest race.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 29, 2023
COCA-COLA 600: Ryan Blaney survives chaos to snap long winless streak
Elliott will miss the Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway on Sunday. It will be the seventh race the Hendrick Motorsports driver has missed this season. NASCAR's most popular driver missed six races earlier this year after breaking his tibia following a snowboarding accident in Colorado, prior to the March 5 race at Las Vegas.
“We understand NASCAR’s need to maintain consistency in its officiating. The penalty will not be appealed, and we will submit a formal request for a playoff waiver," Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement. "Corey LaJoie, 31, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We are grateful to Corey for stepping in and to the team at Spire Motorsports for making him available.”
After the race, which Ryan Blaney won, Hamlin voiced his extreme displeasure with Elliott's action.
“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightaway," Hamlin told reporters on Monday. "It’s a tantrum, and he shouldn’t be racing next week. Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable."
Hamlin compared his incident to the October one between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson where the former was suspended for one week for intentionally wrecking the latter in the Las Vegas playoff race.
Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, denied his action was intentional saying Monday, "The 11 (Hamlin's car) ran us up in the fence there, and once you tear the right side off these things, it's kind of over. Once you hit the wall in these things, you can't drive them anymore. Just an unfortunate circumstance."
What did NASCAR say about the suspension
NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer said Tuesday on Sirius NASCAR Radio that officials determined “it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion, in our view after reviewing all of the available resources."
NASCAR suspended Elliott under a section of rulebook covered under “Member Code of Conduct.” Among the rules covered in that section is “removing another competitor from championship contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstances of the incident.”
💭 “After looking at all the available resources [...] it was an intentional act by Chase.”
🗣️ #NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer joined #SXMSpeedway and discussed the one race suspension handed down to @chaseelliott following yesterday’s #CocaCola600. pic.twitter.com/OSaTe2YQu0
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) May 30, 2023
What did Hamlin say before the suspension was handed down
Hamlin said Tuesday on his podcast “Actions Detrimental" that the act by Elliott was absolutely deliberate payback for earlier contact between the two.
“There’s no explanation that he could possibly give, which he didn’t have a reason for hanging left. You know he obviously didn’t want to admit it,” he said.
Hamlin tweeted out images of the data from Elliott's car on Monday night to prove his point – data that NASCAR considered when determining whether Elliott's actions were intentional.
Absolute left hook. Cranked the wheel 4X harder left than he did making any corner through the whole day. Bullsh*t move. pic.twitter.com/6DylWjKyVu
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) May 29, 2023
Hamlin explained that he “pointed out in the data that I tweeted that once he got into the wall, there was nothing wrong with his car. He’s turned the wheel back straight, like he was going down the straightaway, and you can tell by data whether you’ve got toe link damage or not.
"Everyone hits the wall. But he threw a hissy fit and he just hung the left on us in the most dangerous part of the racetrack that you possibly could and it ended my day and his.”
What does the suspension mean for Elliott
Because Elliott had already missed six races this season, Hendrick Motorsports had to request a waiver from NASCAR to allow Elliott to be playoff eligible – which the series granted. Drivers would normally have to participate in every race to be eligible for the postseason, but NASCAR can grant waivers due to injuries or other circumstances.
Hendrick Motorsports said in their statement Tuesday that the team will submit another formal request for a playoff waiver for Elliott following the suspension.
Sixteen drivers make the 10-race Cup Series playoffs, and a win in any one of the 26 regular-season races would clinch a playoff berth – unless there are more than 16 winners, in which case points would be the determining factor. Drivers can also point their way into the playoffs if there are less than 16 winners, but because Elliott has missed so many races, he would almost certainly fail to rank in the top 16 in points.
After serving his suspension, Elliott would return on June 11 for the road-course race at Sonoma Raceway. Including Sonoma, Elliott would have 11 races to try to reach victory lane.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott for wrecking Denny Hamlin intentionally