Kyle Larson continued his dominance for Hendrick Motorsports last Sunday at Fontana, winning his 11th race for the team since joining last year. No other driver has won more than four races in that span. But in true NASCAR fashion, the win came with a fun dose of last-minute controversy, as well.
Before the fireworks happened on the final laps, both Larson and his teammate Chase Elliott had to overcome serious deficits. Larson had to give up his initial starting position and start at the rear of the field for the 200-lap race; while Elliott found himself two laps down towards the end after contact with the wall led to damage and a subsequent spin.
In the closing laps, Elliott found himself in the wall again, thanks to teammate Larson, who drove into the side of him as he tried to make a move for the lead. When the bump occurred, Larson was pressing in the middle. Team Penske’s Joey Logano was down on the inside going into turn one.
Fan-favorite and NASCAR nice-guy Elliott did not appreciate the bump, and for good reason. Larson even called his own antics a “d–k move” over the radio, but he also claimed he didn’t see Elliott because he was focused on the #22 Ford below him. Larson’s spotter Tyler Monn echoed the sentiments, taking “full responsibility” for focusing too much on the low side rather than the teammate on the high side.
What happened next to Elliott has NASCAR fans talking like espionage experts
With Larson enjoying a comfortable lead, the only thing that could hurt his chances at victory would have been a yellow flag. Of course, that caution came from — you guessed it– his own teammate Elliott, who blamed the late spin-out on a broken toe link. A restart ensued; and while Larson temporarily lost the lead to Daniel Suarez, he was able to claim the win by 0.195 seconds. Conspiracy theorists immediately wondered: did Elliott spin on purpose to get back at Larson for the earlier faux pas?
Even though the toe link issue happened to multiple teams throughout the race, Elliott was frustrated and had nothing to compete for other than Cup points. At this point, though, NASCAR cannot really adjudicate a racer’s intentions. So, as long as the racer denies the allegations, all is likely forgiven. Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace each dealt with similar accusations in the previous three years; with Wallace receiving a hefty fine after basically admitting his own ruse in a post-race interview.
NASCAR has since said that they would be taking a closer look at seemingly intentional spins. They know they have been lenient and not inclined to make judgment calls; but fans are starting to ask questions that NASCAR must address in order to maintain integrity in the sport.
If Chase Elliott did spin on purpose, only he knows it; and NASCAR won’t be taking any action as the rules currently read. It’s a system of innocence until proven guilty at the moment; but that system may change sooner rather than later.