Elliott then appeared to turn down the track into the right-rear fender of Hamlin’s car, sending him head-on into the outside wall in a violent crash that eliminated both drivers from the race.
Although Elliott said it wasn’t intentional, but Hamlin posted SMT data on social media that seemed to suggest otherwise. Hamlin called it a “tantrum” and said that Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week.”
NASCAR took action less than 24 hours later and on Tuesday, suspended Elliott for one race. He will miss this weekend’s event at Gateway.
In an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR Senior VP of Competition of Elton Sawyer said: “Drivers need to understand they have to handle that a completely different way.”
Corey LaJoie will replace Elliott behind the wheel of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Hendrick Motorsports will not appeal the penalty, releasing the following statement: “We understand NASCAR’s need to maintain consistency in its officiating. The penalty will not be appealed, and we will submit a formal request for a playoff waiver.
“Corey LaJoie, 31, will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We are grateful to Corey for stepping in and to the team at Spire Motorsports for making him available.”
The suspension is identical to the action taken by NASCAR officials last fall after a similar incident unfolded at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bubba Wallace hit the wall after being pushed up Kyle Larson, and reacted by right-rearing the Hendrick driver and turning both cars into the outside wall.
Elliott has already missed six races this season after suffering a fractured tibia in his left leg, which happened while snowboarding in early March. He sits 29th in the championship standings 81 points below the cut-off line for the playoffs.
The 27-year-old Elliott won the NASCAR Cup Series title in 2020, and has been named the sport’s Most Popular Driver for five consecutive years.
Lajoie is currently 20th in the championship standings, 38 points outside of the playoffs.