Denny Hamlin was seething after Chase Elliott seemingly hooked the right rear of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry out of apparent retaliation on lap 186 of Monday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The incident occurred after Hamlin slid up into Elliott in Turns 3 and 4, which sent Elliott into the outside wall. After Elliott popped the outside wall, it appeared that he hooked his car to the left into Hamlin's right-rear, which sent Hamlin head-first into the frontstretch retaining wall.
The impact that Hamlin endured was spectacular, and frightening. But luckily, the 42-year-old racer was able to walk away from the mangled race car.
Here is a video of the crash between the two drivers:
After being evaluated and released from the infield care center, Hamlin concluded that the sanctioning body needs to suspend Elliott for intentional retaliation.
"I got right rear hooked in the middle of the straightaway," Hamlin pointed sharply.
"It's a tantrum, and he shouldn't be racing next week," Hamlin continued. "Right rear hooks are absoloutely unacceptable. I don't care. It's the same thing that Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exact same. He shouldn't be racing. It's a tantrum."
Here is Hamlin's post-infield car center interview on the FOX Sports broadcast:
While Hamlin feels the move was intentional, and it certainly had the look of a manuever that had the intentions of retaliation, Elliott denied the intent in his post-crash interview. Elliott claimed that his venture into the outside wall rendered his car uncontrollable.
"No, like I say, once you hit the wall in these things, you can't drive them anymore," Elliott explained when asked if the contact with Hamlin was retaliatory. "Unfortunately not, an unfortunate circumstance."
Here is a video of Elliott's post-infield care center interview:
While Elliott maintains that the move wasn't intentional, at the end of the day, it will fall on NASCAR's shoulders to investigate the matter.
Last season, Bubba Wallace hooked Kyle Larson's right rear in retaliation at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the 33rd race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. After the crash, Larson said he felt the move was intentional. Wallace insisted it was not.
Following extensive research into video evidence of the crash and SMT data, NASCAR concluded that Wallace did intentionally crash Larson in retaliation. As a result, Wallace was suspended for the following week's race at Homestead-Miami Speeway.
Wallace, who was suspended, was locked into a NASCAR Cup Series Owners Championship Playoffs battle in the No. 45 23XI Racing entry. John Hunter Nemechek would fill in for Wallace at Homestead, and would go on to finish 27th in that race.
With that decision last season, NASCAR set the precedent.
If Elliott intentionally retaliated, and NASCAR is able to determine that through video evidence and SMT data, the penalty should be a one-race suspension. That being said, there is still a very real chance that the No. 9 car did indeed suffer a broken part after its collision with the outside wall.
Either way, NASCAR will have the final say on the matter, and we should know definitively in the near future whether Josh Berry will add even more NASCAR Cup Series starts to his 2023 season tally.
Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America