NASCAR
Bob Pockrass, NASCAR 14d

Hamlin not concerned with Elliott after Martinsville crash

NASCAR

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Denny Hamlin says he can't worry about how Chase Elliott will race him after their Martinsville dust-up. Elliott says don't even bother asking him about whether retaliation is an option.

The drivers began practice Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway for this Sunday's race, the second event of the three-race semifinal round. It was their first time on a racetrack since last Sunday's crash, when Hamlin hit Elliott's bumper, causing Elliott to spin out of the lead at Martinsville Speedway.

"How people race me is really no concern to me," Hamlin said Thursday. "I'll drive everyone the exact same way that I would always drive them, Chase included.

"How they choose to race me is up to them. It's everyone's prerogative to race any way they want to. We'll do the best we can to run up front and not worry about any of that stuff."

Both Hamlin and Elliott sit outside the current cutoff as NASCAR will cut its championship contenders from eight to four drivers following the race next week at Phoenix. Hamlin is eight points out, Elliott is 26.

Hamlin finished seventh at Martinsville and Elliott finished 27th -- so with each spot worth a point, Elliott's championship hopes were heavily impacted by Martinsville when Hamlin punted him for the lead with two laps left in regulation.

"I'm not going to answer y'all's questions whether I'm going to get him back or not, so don't even ask," Elliott said Friday. "You're not going to hear it from me."

It wasn't just losing points that frustrated Elliott. He hasn't won in 74 career starts and a win earns a playoff driver an automatic bid to be among the four finalists in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I'm still pretty frustrated about it," Elliott said. "Really, as the week has gone along, it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were going to Homestead.

"If anything else, that will drive you up the wall more as you think about it. I'm definitely not happy about it."

Hamlin had reached out to Elliott but he has gotten no response. He wasn't surprised.

"I haven't talked to him at all ... but it's not because of me," Hamlin said. "Obviously, usually when there is a party upset, usually they don't want to talk. That's understandable."

After the race Sunday, Hamlin had posted an apology to Elliott on Twitter. Hamlin said Thursday he felt it was important to show compassion.

"I was aggressive as everyone was -- anybody with the lead was knocked out of the way in those last four laps," Hamlin said. "It was just ill-timed. It was poor execution on my part, but obviously there was no intent there.

"Even though people can try to prod you into thinking they can get into your mind and understand how you think, unless you're in the moment, unless you're there, no one will understand it but me. I know there was no intent. It worked out bad for all parties involved. We're just going to try to move on and try to make it to Homestead."

Elliott didn't say he was totally moving on, but he wasn't going into the race Sunday thinking solely about Hamlin.

"I'm not overwhelming myself with him or any other driver in particular as the weekend goes along," Elliott said. "I don't think you can do that and look yourself in the eyes and think you have a fair shot if you have that mindset coming into a weekend.

"We're going to go about our business as we always do and hope that we make the right guesses and I make the right judgment calls."

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