NASCAR: 'I was rooting for' Kurt Busch - Hamlin
By Kelly Crandall | RACER.com NASCAR correspondet
Denny Hamlin said the contact between him and Kurt Busch was not intentional and was especially disappointing because he was rooting for Kurt to advance in the championship.
Hamlin and Busch collided on Lap 270 at ISM Raceway when Hamlin slid up off Turn 2 into the side of Busch. The two then hooked together on the backstretch wall with Busch hitting Hamlin and spinning him. The accident ended Busch’s day and his playoffs. Hamlin wound up 13th.
“[He] and the 20 [Erik Jones] got together middle of the corner, I got a good run underneath, and from the replay, it looked like I got loose,” Hamlin said. “I thought I got hit, but no one was near me. I got loose and chased it up the racetrack, and he was right there, and then it looked like he hit the wall, and then I was up there, and kind of pinched him, and I think once he hit the wall I think he just conceded it was not going to be good, so he turned us.
“I can’t blame him. Kurt’s been fair to me for 13 straight years of racing. I’ve never had one incident. He’s been fair to me as anyone out there, and I hate it for him because trust me, I was rooting for him. All today I was rooting for the 41 to be the guy to get in there. But ultimately we got to go out there and a race to try to win, and we were battling hard off the corner and just ran out of real estate.”
The accident also collected playoff contender Chase Elliott, who was mid-pack because of a speeding penalty he had just been nabbed for. Elliott was the leader when he was penalized.
“Yeah, that’s the unfortunate part about it, these races have been melees for eight weeks at the end of them, so, just unfortunate,” Hamlin said of collecting Elliott. “We had a race-winning car; we passed the 18 [Kyle Busch] four times today.
“Just a synopsis of our year to be honest with you. Run well, kind of get off a little bit there on pit road, and we just were trying to battle back and saw an opportunity to get the lead, and it was a good opportunity, but obviously, just beating and banging there for the lead.”
Elliott was able to finish the race with the damage he suffered, but he was 23rd and three laps off the pace. Coming into the weekend 17 points below a transfer spot, Elliott felt he needed to win the race to advance.
“[The speeding penalty] was completely my fault, and when you make mistakes like that, you get put behind, and that’s when you get wrecked,” said Elliott. “I had a pretty good NAPA Chevy, especially on the long runs. We could run with those guys. I couldn’t get going quite as good as I wanted to, but if you stay away from that penalty, you never know. I hate it, but we’ll try to get a win next week.”
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