Denny Hamlin had a chance to advance to the Championship 4, but he decided to race Chase Elliott, and Elliott made contact with him and sent Hamlin into the wall.
Elliott’s actions were seen as retaliation for Hamlin doing the same thing to him two weeks prior at Martinsville, and there wasn’t much sympathy for Hamlin as his championship hopes ended at Phoenix.
Despite Elliott basically doing the same thing to Hamlin as Hamlin did to Elliott, NASCAR analyst Roger Holtsclaw argued that Hamlin’s actions were far worse.
“As one can see, there is obviously a major difference here,” Holtsclaw said. ‘Not only did Elliott not dump Hamlin, he didn’t touch Kenseth, even though the stakes were the same. Therefore, Hamlin’s insinuation that Elliott would do ‘the exact same thing in the same circumstances’ is proven false. Elliott could have taken out Kenseth, and likely gone on to score his first win and earn his first shot at a series championship, but he didn’t.”
The main argument is that if Hamlin hadn’t wrecked Elliott first, there’s chance both drivers would be competing for the championship on Sunday.
All Hamlin had to do at Phoenix was finish better than Brad Keselowski and he would have advanced. Instead, he decided to race Elliott head-to-head, and Elliott took the opportunity to nudge Hamlin out of the way.
It was clearly retaliation — even the biggest Elliott fan would admit that — but Hamlin brought it upon himself with what he did at Martinsville.
Hamlin can deny it, but he’ll have to look back on this season and ask “what if?” due to his mistakes in the Round of 8.