Close call at Martinsville still galls Chase Elliott
FORT WORTH, Tex. - Chase Elliot wasn't going there.
If he's hatching a revenge plot against Denny Hamlin in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), he's keeping to himself.
"I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not," Elliott said on Friday morning before opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at TMS.
"Don't even ask because you are not going to hear it from me. Just don't go there."
But don't think Elliott has put last Sunday's wreck at Martinsville behind him. With four laps left in the First Data 500, Hamlin shoved Elliott, then the race leader, into the Turn 3 wall, simultaneously denying the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet a likely first career victory and a berth in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I am still pretty frustrated about it, and as long as the week has gone along, it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead," Elliott said. "I think, if anything else, that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it.
"Definitely not happy about it and I don't think a whole lot has changed."
After the race, Hamlin apologized for wrecking Elliott but continues to maintain that crashing the leader was not his intent. Hamlin said Elliott has not responded to overtures to discuss the incident.
The wreck knocked Elliott back to 27th at the finish and left him eighth in the series standings, last among Playoff drivers and 26 points behind Kevin Harvick in fourth. After the Nov. 12 event at Phoenix International Raceway, the Playoff field will be cut from eight drivers to four.
Elliott realizes where his focus needs to lie for the next two weeks.
"You can't let the situation and the things that went on (at Martinsville) consume you," Elliott said. "If you do, you're going to lose sight of what really matters. What really matters is us trying to win one of these next two weeks and go race for a championship, as we were so close to doing last weekend.
"Close doesn't cut it in any form of racing. I've kind of learned that the hard way over some circumstances that either I've put on myself, or things just haven't worked out."
Interestingly, Elliott and Hamlin are the only two remaining drivers in the Playoff who have never had a DNF (did not finish) at either Texas or Phoenix.
Of course, that could change on Sunday if Elliott really does have revenge on his mind - and wisely isn't saying so.
FUEL SYSTEM ISSUES CURTAIL JIMMIE JOHNSON'S PRACTICE
As he left pit road on his first lap of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson knew immediately something was wrong with the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
The car lost fuel pressure, and Johnson pulled down to the apron before completing the lap. Back in the garage, his team replaced the fuel cell - a time-consuming process - and Johnson returned to the track with less than 14 minutes left in the 85-minute session.
After running one lap, the seven-time champion returned to the garage. He got back on track in the final five minutes, ran two laps and finished the session 19th on the speed chart, slowest among the eight playoff drivers.
The bottom line? It was not a stellar start to the weekend for Johnson, who is fifth in the standings, trailing fourth-place Kevin Harvick by three points. The seven-time Texas winner must climb into the top four in the next two events to run for a record eighth title Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson remains optimistic about his chances.
"One thing I know about our team is when we get hot - and we can get hot quick - great things can happen," he said. "As we all know, the summer wasn't fun for us, and as the Playoffs started we have been able to ratchet it up some and clean up some areas, but we are still searching a little bit and looking for more speed.
"We had a great test session in Homestead (in late October) and some great thinking and ideas that were put into place for this weekend, so we're excited to get on track, knowing how fast this track is."
Even if the first full lap on the track was quite a bit later than planned.
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY HONORS DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had some choice words for Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage - and the horse he rode in on.
In fact, Earnhardt's choice words were expressions of gratitude for thoughtful gifts to the driver of the No. 88 in anticipation of his last appearance at TMS in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Bedecked in a lighted cowboy suit and hat, Gossage - NASCAR's own Rhinestone Cowboy - pranced into the TMS Media center atop a horse to deliver news of the largesse to Earnhardt.
The speedway is sponsoring a horse called "Chevy" in Earnhardt's name at Victory Therapy Center, a ranch that specializes in help for persons with disabilities. Gossage also presented Earnhardt with the lighted top section of the scoring pylon from Earnhardt's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Texas in April 2000.
"Texas has been so awesome to me," Earnhardt said. "My wife Amy, she's from Texas. I got a whole other family down here. That is a big, big bonus of being married to her. We spent all week with them, with her sister and her husband. So Texas is a place that is almost like a second home.
"I find I love more and more about it the more time I spend here. But the track... there's nothing really unique about the place other than Eddie, (who) has been amazing as far as a promoter. The things that he does... he is always kind of pushing the envelope. And he means well, I have learned.
"Sometimes I have wondered, but I know he's just trying to do a job and take advantage of his opportunities, and he has to deliver, and so he does what he needs to do to deliver. It reminds me of some of the older style promoters that we used to have. A lot more flamboyant and creative."
RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS ANNOUNCES NEW SPONSOR
With full-time driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. behind the wheel, Richard Petty Motorsports will have a new sponsor on the vaunted No. 43 car in the 2018 Daytona 500 and at least two other events next year.
Click n' Close, a division of Texas-based Mid America Mortgage has entered a partnership agreement with RPM as well as signing on as the "Official Mortgage Provider of NASCAR."
"I'm excited to run in my first Daytona 500," Wallace said. "And I think most of you guys know that Richard Petty and the No. 43 have done great things and have great numbers around the Daytona 500."
Still to be determined is the make of car Wallace will drive in 2018. RPM currently fields Fords but has not yet announced a manufacturer affiliation for next year.
"I'll let you know when I find out," team co-owner Richard Petty said.
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---