Well that was a hell of a kickoff to a new season of NASCAR.
Coming to the frontstretch chicane of the Daytona International Speedway road course, Chase Elliott pulled up alongside Ryan Blaney. Now on the inside in Turn 14, Elliott drove in too hard and hit Blaney, sending him into the outside wall.
“I just had to stop really to try to make the corner,” Elliott said. “At that point we were side-by-side trying to stay off the curb. We both know that the curb, you don’t want to hit any more of it than you have to.”
Kyle Busch, who was two car-lengths behind them, overtook Elliott and took the checkered flag of the Busch Clash for the second time in his career.
He wasn’t sure if Elliott would “push the issue” and “knock him through the turn and make him miss the exit.”
“When that started happening, I was hoping they were going to wreck long enough that I could get up in there and get by them, we could win the thing,” Busch said. “It’s never over till it’s over at these types of places, especially when you have those last-corner, last-ditch-effort chicanes like here and the (Charlotte) Roval.”
Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney collide on final lap of Clash
Elliott and Blaney spent the final laps playing a cat and mouse game, as Blaney watched his off-the-track friend miss his mark in a few corners and overtook him with two to go.
“I didn’t do a great job of getting away from him,” Blaney said. “I kind of missed Turn 1, kind of let him get to me in three there, then five as well.”
With fresh tires, however, Blaney had a slight advantage exiting a turn. Rounding NASCAR 1 and 2, he stretched the gap to over half-a-second.
Despite this, he locked up going into the bus stop and Elliott caught up to him.
“I thought I was in a good spot out of six, then I hit the dang mud on the bus stop at the back, let him get right to my bumper,” he said. “That just set it up.
“Yeah, it was definitely surprising he could stay right there because I was eating them up in braking zones, really hard on the drive off. He was driving in super deep, making it stick, driving off with me. I was pretty shocked.”
After the race, Elliott went over to Blaney, apologized and told him he didn’t mean to wreck him.
“I hate neither one of us won,” Elliott said. “If you’re going to do it, at least win. That’s the sure sign of not doing it on purpose when you don’t win the race after wrecking somebody. That’s just my bad. I tried to get that across.”
“Listen, hey, we’re really good friends off the racetrack,” Blaney said. “But we’re both really hard competitors, we race each other really hard. I know he’s going to make a big move. Any competitor would. If you don’t go in there trying to win the race, what are you there for? Like I said, it’s just a shame that it got us wrecked.”
When the dust settled, Elliott finished second and Blaney limped across the line to 13th.
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