October 4, 2023

Ryan Blaney breaks through and then breaks down; Hamlin accuses Elliott of ‘tantrum’

Do you think these guys don’t hear the outside noise?

Tell that to Ryan Blaney, who ended his winless streak on Monday at 59.

Perhaps his win was fitting. Waiting a day and a half for rain to hold the longest event on the schedule, the Coca-Cola 600, was probably no problem for Blaney, who had been waiting since a win at Daytona on August 28, 2021.

“Maybe I’ll wipe a tear,” Blaney choked just before he did. “You start to feel like you can’t win anymore if you don’t win for a while. It’s getting a little difficult. So, just super thankful for the (No.) 12 guys for believing in me.

But if ever there was a fluke, it was Blaney’s. He was the only driver to enter the play-offs on points last year, finishing joint third in the top-five with 12. Monday was his eighth top-10 in 14 races this year and his fifth in the last six events.

NASCAR HALFWAY: Will Ross enter Chastain by winning? Can Harvick hold on? Can Chase pay Elliott back?

SPEED FREAKS: Is Ryan Blaney ready to roll; are chase elliott, denny hamlin okay?

NASCAR POLL: Chase Elliott trashed Denny Hamlin, but should he be suspended? Bubba Wallace was! To vote!

Ryan Blaney, left, celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ryan Blaney, left, celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Does the win mean anything for Blaney in the long run? Time will tell. Note that the last time he won a race, he won two in a row, winning at Michigan the week before leaving for Daytona in 2021.

The future can wait, but Blaney’s wait is over.

Let’s go through the gears.

First gear: Denny Hamlin accuses Chase Elliott of ‘tantrum’, calls for suspension

Denny Hamlin's car was wrecked after being hit by Chase Elliott late in the second leg of Monday's Coca-Cola 600.

Denny Hamlin’s car was vandalized after being driven into the wall by Chase Elliott late in the second leg of Monday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Boy is NASCAR in a pickle the size of a Vlasic.

Could it really suspend its biggest star?

In the interest of fairness, it probably should. After all, the replay of Chase Elliott’s car turning left, Denny Hamlin hooking back right… right into the fence… and right after the two made contact with Elliott going into the wall is pretty damning. Especially considering the precedent set by Bubba Wallace’s one-race suspension in October for Kyle Larson’s crash in Las Vegas in a similar and violent crash.

But there is room for maneuver here. One, and perhaps most importantly, Elliott denied intent, claiming that contact with the wall caused him to lose control of his car. And upon further investigation, Elliott was contacted from behind by Brad Keselowski, though it appeared to come after his car had already started spinning.

This is another “damn if they do, damn if they don’t” for NASCAR, to be sure.

But Hamlin is one of many who have made up their minds.

“It’s a tantrum and he shouldn’t be racing next week,” said Hamlin. “Back-right hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I do not give a hoot. It’s the same thing Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exactly the same. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Second Gear: Bubba Wallace gives Aric Almirola the bird

The drama between Elliott and Hamlin made an altercation from earlier at the same stage seem like ancient history.

A video released to Twitter showed Aric Almirola and Wallace reuniting for a chat during a rain stoppage early in Stage 2. After Wallace leaned forward and began to walk away, Almirola shoved him with the two reuniting as they were separated by security. The conversation continued but no further contact was made.

The disagreement probably stemmed from a little contact between the two earlier in the race.

“Early in the race I felt like I gave Bubba a lot of space when we raced against each other and when he got to me he shot me,” explained Almirola. “So I just went to ask him why he shot me the bird and he started yelling and cussing at me and I told him I wouldn’t get that. Disappointing. That’s him, I know that.”

Third gear: a legacy that won’t last that long

Jimmie Johnson finished 37th on Monday, part of a miserable Coca-Cola 600 for Legacy Motor Club.

Jimmie Johnson finished 37th on Monday, part of a miserable Coca-Cola 600 for Legacy Motor Club.

A tough season reached brutal and unusual heights for Legacy Motor Club on Monday.

All three of the organization’s entries went to the garage almost at the same time, with Erik Jones and Noah Gragson inscrutably both hitting the same round of debris and damaging radiators.

And things didn’t get any better after repairs, when Gragson and Jimmie Johnson collided, causing a crash and issuing a warning. Combined, the three finished 32nd (Jones), 36e (Gragson) and 37e (Johnson) a total of 627 laps down.

Fourth gear: A second round at Gateway

Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup Series event at Gateway last year.

Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup Series event at Gateway last year.

One race is hardly long enough to have a good idea of ​​what to expect next week at Gateway.

Joey Logano won the inaugural event last year on the 1¼ mile oval that is shaped like Darlington and sloped like Martinsville. Ford and Toyota combined to take the top six spots, with Erik Jones’ four laps being the only tracks led by a Chevrolet.

This article originally appeared in The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR: Ryan Blaney ends drought and can Chase Elliott be suspended?

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