It has been a most trying year in the NASCAR Cup Series for Chase Elliott, and his dramatic up-and-down 2023 season added a new chapter during a late caution flag during Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.
Elliott and teammate Kyle Larson made contact as they exited the pit road, which led Elliott to door-slam Larson as they returned to the racetrack.
They're teammates. ?
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 10, 2023
Elliott seemed to take it as a slight from Larson. But as it turns out, Larson had no choice but to move left, as Brad Keselowski squeezed him into Elliott.
The contact after leaving pit road wasn't the end of what seemed to be a disagreement between the two former Cup Series champions. NBC's broadcast caught Elliott leaning into Larson's car as the drivers exchanged words following the race. It wasn't clear what the two had to say to each other.
Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass asked Elliott if he was trying to send a message to Larson after the race, and Elliott mostly shrugged it off and denied that's what he was trying to do.
"There was no message," Elliott said.
As for Larson, he spoke to NBC Sports' Dave Burns following the race about his thoughts on what happened .
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 10, 2023
"We were just, from my vantage point, I knew we were three wide leaving," Larson said. "And I knew — well I didn't know, but at the time, the 6 [Keselowski] is pitted in front of us and I'm just trying to leave as much space as I can. He's coming out into the lane quickly because the 6 wants to slow us down. I tried to leave as much space as I could. Obviously, I made contact with him [Elliott], but I feel like if I didn't I was going to clobber the 6 right in the right front. I thought the safest bet for all of us was for me to squeeze out a little bit."
So the contact between the two occurred. And though Elliott denied to the media that he was angry, he likely wasn't too happy at the moment. And his frustrations aren't all for nothing. He and Larson have had several instances in which they haven't seen eye to eye as teammates, including last year at Watkins Glen.
Larson said he completely understood why Elliott was upset at the time.
"I understand why he is mad or was mad in the moment. I hope when he sees the replay, he understands I didn't have any space, or not much, just inches," Larson told Burns. "So just a bummer, but I'm glad neither of us got tore up there and we could get a good finish."
Hendrick Motorsports clearly has something going on, reminiscent of the days when Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon both were champions and not happy with each other even as teammates.
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