Martinsville and Phoenix are a long way from each other, but it certainly didn’t feel that way last Sunday in the NASCAR Can-Am 500. While all the fans were focused on all the drivers, the drivers and teams themselves were wary of getting caught in the crossfire of a brewing feud between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. That much is clear by listening to the radio traffic among teams that was posted by Fox Sports.
“Denny’s trying to do the big diamond in (turns) three and four,” radioed Kyle Busch’s spotter as he watched Elliott come around Hamlin.
“I don’t think it’s over yet,” said Clint Bowyer’s spotter.
Ever since Denny Hamlin spun out Chase Elliott in the Martinsville race two weeks ago, a race Elliott looked a cinch to win, everyone was waiting for when payback would come. With so much on the line in Phoenix, people were watching for the fireworks.
“Let it go. You’re better. Drive around him,” radioed Hamlin’s spotter Chris Lambert to keep things cool.
“Stay with it, nice and smooth,” said Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson as Hamlin came up on his bumper.
Elliott was running a great race. The #24 was challenging for the lead most of the day and led for 34 laps.
“I don’t know what they did to that #24 car but holy hell,” radioed Ryan Blaney to his crew chief.
“Yeah, that’s pretty impressive. I’m not really sure what they did,” came the reply.
As the race went on, the drivers were noticing that the driving between Elliott and Hamlin was getting more intense.
“Getting pretty big up there,” radioed Joey Logano. “Just sayin’…the #24 and the #11.”
“Keep your eyes open,” replied crew chief Todd Gordon. “There’s bad blood over the whole Martinsville deal there.”
Coming off a restart, teams were warning their drivers of where Hamlin and Elliott were on the track, hoping to avoid getting caught up in what they knew was coming.
“#24 is up there, and #11. Could get interesting,” said Brad Keselowski’s crew chief. “We just gotta try to stay clean here.”
Tight racing all day between the two, with both crews trying to keep things focused and calm. Then it happened. Elliott came up strong and tapped Hamlin before passing on the inside. The two were side by side coming out of a turn when Elliott forced Hamlin up high.
“Chase is gonna wreck Denny,” radioed Clint Bowyer’s spotter.
“He definitely hit the wall,” replied the crew chief.
Hamlin was forced into the wall, cutting a tire. He kept racing, but the tire quickly gave out, ending his day.
“What the hell?”, radioed Martin Truex, Jr. “How did he hit the wall?”
“#24 passed him and shoved him into the wall,” replied his crew chief Cole Pearn. “And then he got a tire rub and then it blew.”
“Oh Boy,” replied Truex, Jr.
“Yeah, Karma,” said Pearn.
Karma is one way to put it. Payback is how most would describe it, retaliation is what Denny Hamlin called it. No matter what name is on it, safe to say this feud will carry over beyond 2017.