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Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott tangle keeps both from win

Chase Elliott laments what could have been after late contact with Martin Truex Jr. thwarts his chances of a win and results in a 20th-place finish despite the fact that he led 114 laps.

Martin Truex Jr. thought he had enough room. Chase Elliott didn’t see it that way.

Truex challenged Elliott for the lead with 14 laps to go in Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, but both hit the wall. That allowed Kevin Harvick to take the lead and win the Cup playoff opener.

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Truex got a run off Turn 4 and pursued Elliott down the frontstretch. Truex went under Elliott entering Turn 1 but was not clear when he came up the track. Elliott and Truex hit and both slammed the wall.

“It’s Darlington and typically you don’t want to go in side-by-side,” Truex said. “I felt like I had enough of a run and enough space there that the last foot or so (Elliott) was going to understand that if I was committed, we both weren’t going to make it. Typically, here that’s kind of how you race. If a guy gets a run on you and he’s just about got you cleared, you have to give that last little bit.

“Now obviously, the end of the race, probably the pass for the win, he wanted to drive it on in there, and I was committed to being clear and there was no way we were both going to make the corners. Basically, when I made up my mind and I was driving it in there and then he drove in on my right-rear quarter, there was no possible way that we both weren’t crashing. That’s what happened.”

Said Elliott: “He (Truex) had a run on me there off of (Turn) 4 and he just kind of cleared himself into 1. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously.”

Truex had to pit soon after the incident because his right rear tire lost air pressure. He finished 22nd, ending his streak of eight consecutive finishes of fourth or better.

Elliott worried he had a tire going down but stayed on track and finished 20th.

“I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro - fast enough to contend,” Elliott said of the finish. “We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in (Turn) 3 and 4 to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave (Truex) the run and then he just slid up into my left front, I felt like and on we went.”

Said Truex: “I hate it for (Elliott’s) team. Obviously, it was nothing intentional, just two guys going for the win and not enough room for both of us there. If it was my fault, I apologize. I really felt like I had the position to get in there to (Turn) 1. That’s how it goes, and we’ll see what goes on from here.”

The incident marked the second Darlington race in a row that contact with a Joe Gibbs Racing car ruined Elliott’s race.

Elliott was running second in the race there in May when Kyle Busch misjudged his position and clipped the rear of Elliott’s car as Busch attempted to fill in the gap for third place. Elliott crashed. After climbing from his car, Elliott gave Busch a one-finger gesture when Busch drove by.