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FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 27: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 27, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 27: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 27, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Kyle Larson Says Contact With Chase Elliott Was Accidental

Kyle Larson sent an infuriated Chase Elliott into the fence when they made contact Sunday with just under 20 laps to go at Auto Club Speedway. Elliott’s bold move to take the lead was erased when Larson, who had been side drafting off Joey Logano to stay in front, came briskly up the track and pinched Elliott into the wall.

Larson went on to claim his first victory of the season, even surviving a chaotic restart with four laps left on an entertaining day for the circuit’s new cars on its oldest asphalt.

The restart was even more spicy because it was caused by Elliott, whose spin with eight laps to go was deemed suspicious by plenty of NASCAR fans.

After claiming his second surfboard trophy, Larson realized everybody wanted to know about his contact with his furious fellow Hendrick Motorsports superstar.

Larson patiently repeated that the contact was a mistake, not a block — but that Elliott also deserved a measure of blame.

“I think if (more) things happen in the future, then yes, it gets out of hand,” Larson said. “But Hendrick Motorsports, I don’t think, will ever let it get to that point, and we have enough respect for each other that I don’t think it will get out of hand at all. … He’s going to be upset, which he has a right to be, but I’ll explain my side, and he’ll believe me or he won’t.”

Still, Elliott’s radio communication left no doubt about his immediate feelings on the move that ruined his day: An exasperated Elliott profanely asked his team what Larson was doing with his big swerve up high.

Even more intriguingly, Elliott told his team shortly before his spin that he suspected his toe link would break for the second time in the race, and that he ”(didn’t) really give a (expletive) who is leading the race.”

Larson and Daniels immediately dismissed the notion Elliott would spin on purpose. The teams had brief communication in the paddock after the race, but more dialogue is coming.

Associated Press