Chase Elliott conceded that he was frustrated at the end of the Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday when he door-slammed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson leaving pit road prior to the final restart.
Larson initiated contact with Elliott on pit exit but only because he was taking evasive action due to Brad Keselowski leaving his own stall. At the time, Elliott had eventual winner Tyler Reddick to his outside and had nowhere to go.
After leaving pit road, Elliott veered left into Larson.
The duo have raced each other especially hard by teammate standards the past two years, a byproduct of frequently running up front and the occasional tension has developed between the 2020 and 2021 champions as a result.
In the moment, Larson wanted Elliott to know it wasn’t malicious.
“It was just a byproduct of being three-wide on pit exit,” Kyle Larson said. “He was in the middle lane and had (Reddick) to his outside. We had a good pit stop and left my stall and was inside of Chase and (Keselowski) who was pitted ahead of us, he was coming out of the stall. I’m trying to leave everyone as much room as possible that I can. (Keselowski) was going much closer as I was approaching him. I was going to clobber him if I didn’t move up a little bit. We made slight contact and all that. … If I could have left more room, I would have. Things are happening so fast and (Keselowski) was basically at a stop in the lane. I was trying not to clobber him.”
For his part, Keselowski said on Tuesday that he didn’t even know what happened until after the race.
“We have such a limited view inside the car,” Keselowski said. “That makes it really difficult. We had the 20 car in front of me, still performing their pit stop. I launched into the furthest left lane … and was close to the 5 car. I didn’t realize those guys had made contact. But it’s just part of the deal when you have a late pit stop and four guys who leave their box at the same time.
“None of us know where the others are, and it’s sometimes feeling it out like braille and it doesn’t go as smoothly as we would prefer.”
Chase Elliott talks mix-up with Kyle Larson
Elliott shrugged off questions from the media about it on Sunday, suggesting there was no message being sent and even expressing surprise that he was asked about it.
On Tuesday, Elliott appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and conceded he didn’t have a full understanding of the sequence of events at the end of the race.
“There’s a lot that goes on for sure,” Elliott said. “But yeah, we obviously ran into each other on pit road. I didn’t have the full picture of what went on. I was frustrated, and that stuff happens, for sure. But at the end of the day, I’ll certainly take the blame for my frustration on that front.
“The good news is, he and I can have a conversation like adults and it’s a non-issue. Now, the bad news is it’s a non-issue for all y’all and everybody that wants to talk about it. There’s nothing to talk about. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I know you guys love your drama, but there’s just none here this week.”
Elliott says the talked about it after the race and quickly moved forward.
“Our relationship actually has been good,” Chase Elliott said on the channel. “We have a lot of dialogue. Like I said, we talked about it there after the race and that was it. There’s nothing more to really even discuss. When you talk about things and you get the whole picture of what’s going on and you have a discussion like adults and there’s really no need for anything else.
“Neither he or I care about what is said during the week, so at the end of the day, I think we’re both pretty performance-motivated and driven, and that’s where our focus is and we’ll continue to be.”
While Kyle Larson is racing for a driver championship this fall, Elliott is navigating the owner’s championship in the No. 9 car. Elliott has not been particularly competitive since returning from his March snowboarding incident, and has even blamed himself more than the car for those struggles, and said Sunday at Kansas was the first time in awhile that he felt closer to par.
The Hendrick No. 9 car left Kansas 12 points above the cutline. Even though its not the driver championship, the owners standings are how teams are paid at the end of the year and Elliott could set himself up for a sizeable bonus by winning that championship at the end of the year.
Sunday went a long way towards that goal.
“Kansas was super refreshing,” Elliott said. “I thought we were much improved. I thought I was doing a better job driving. Our pit stops are really good. Just the whole bit felt right, like everything felt solid and super satisfying because they put a lot of effort into being better. I put a lot of effort into pushing myself in more areas—in areas that I feel like need to be worked on.
“Anytime you put the effort and time in into different areas and you see the results be better and then you can kind of get that report card and it’d be an improvement. I think that’s encouraging for everyone involved in our group. So it was a solid day. Obviously, we didn’t win the race but we were up there battling with those guys that did.
“You got to do that every week and if you’re in that fight and you’re in that hunt, the wins and and things will fall. The good news is all the pieces of the puzzle in my mind are there. From a strategy standpoint, our pit stops are really good. It’s all there for us. We’ve just got to put it together. I thought this past weekend—and Darlington, too—but this past weekend, for sure, was fun and I enjoyed it.”
Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.