So this past weekend was the first race of the round of 8, and what a race it was. Tempers are already flaring up between multiple drivers, most notably Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. That is the matchup to be watching going into the next two races before the final round at Homestead-Miami. Kyle Busch took the win, with Martin Truex taking 2nd, but that story is definitely taking a back seat to the tempers that were flaring after and during the race. Let’s look at the two big, new rivalries that were made this past weekend at Martinsville.
Chase Elliott vs Denny Hamlin
So I’m definitely on Team Chase for this one. Chase Elliott was on his way to his first career win and locking himself into the finals with a victory, like a predicted in my last article. I was going to look like a genius… then Denny Hamlin hit, literally. With three laps to go, Chase Elliott was leading and Denny Hamlin was in second. And I understand that its Martinsville, and a little bump and run isn’t a bad thing, but what Hamlin did was totally uncalled for and not like Denny Hamlin at all. If you haven’t seen the wreck, you could watch it here. The two of them didn’t stop there. Chase was obviously fed up with Hamlin’s actions on the track and he made sure Hamlin knew that. If you watch the video you will see Chase and Denny exchanging some words of disagreement, with Chase obviously being heated during the exchange. The video also shows Chase showing his displeasure directly after the race by running into Hamlin’s car with his own, pushing him into the wall. Chase voiced his displeasure with Hamlin in his post-race interview.
After watching all of this pan out, and given the time to digest the situation, I feel so bad for Chase Elliott. And I was happy to see him retaliate the way that he did and go make sure he told Denny Hamlin that he was not very pleased with what he did. He is usually very calm and collected all the time, but I think he’s finally had enough of coming in second place. So I thought it was great to see him go after Hamlin after the race. It’s just adding fuel to the fire for this kid, and I’m still holding true to my prediction that he will win his way into the finals. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he made sure Hamlin didn’t advance to the next round by taking matters into his own hands.
In terms of Hamlin, this is a terrible look for him. He did come out and apologize, but not before he made numerous excuses defending what he did to Chase. I lost a lot of respect for Denny Hamlin last weekend which is a shame. I never looked at him as a villain but for the next two races, I find myself in a situation that makes it very difficult to cheer for him. The crowd was obviously against what Hamlin did as they booed him after the race, only to cheer for Chase when they saw him on the big screen.
Definitely watch these two this weekend at Texas as I would not be the least bit surprised if we saw some more retaliation out of Chase. I also look to Chase to run up front the entire race and maybe take the win at Texas. There’s no doubt in my mind that this team was already motivated, but this just adds to that motivation. Chase Elliott will get the last laugh in terms of this rivalry.
Ryan Blaney vs Kevin Harvick
These two kind of flew under the radar last week because of the Elliott vs Hamlin incident, but Blaney and Harvick were not happy with each other at all. Unlike the Elliott vs Hamlin incident which was brought about by one moment on track, Harvick was displeased with Blaney throughout the entire race. Harvick and Blaney were beating on each other the entire race. You can see this and both of their post race interviews here. This exchange was obviously not as heated as the Elliott vs Hamlin one was but nonetheless, it’s still necessary to talk about.
With this situation, I’m on Blaney’s side and I’m not saying this because he’s my favorite driver. And I do love Harvick’s interview. This is what I basically got out of it: Harvick was okay bumping Blaney all day and he had a tough time getting by him, which tells me Blaney’s car was just as good as Harvick. Then when Harvick got sick of being behind Blaney, he had no issues bumping him out of the way. BUT, when Blaney gave Harvick a bump when he was next to him, Harvick didn’t appreciate Blaney bumping him down the front stretch, even though Harvick was bumping Blaney all race. That’s just my opinion.
Harvick voiced his displeasure with Blaney after the race. Blaney never really went after Harvick in his post-race interview. When they confronted each other face to face after the race everything seemed pretty calm. But I did notice that nudge Blaney gave Harvick when he walked away. I’m not sure if that was just a friendly nudge or a nudge out of anger.
But, I don’t really expect to see much retaliation between these two. If there is any retaliation, it will be between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. Texas will definitely be interesting and worth watching this weekend. I’m fairly confident that there are going to be some more storylines to come out of this weekend’s race.