Tagliani, Elliott exchange words post-race
June 21, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Race results
Elliott, the NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie, and Tagliani, the veteran road-racer with a deep open-wheel background, shook hands after their final-lap collision in the Gardner Denver 200, but there was still some difference of opinion in the moments after the engines went quiet.
Tagliani, the Coors Light Pole Award winner in Saturday morning qualifying, seemingly had the race in hand until a late caution period for Justin Marks' stalled car bunched the field and forced an overtime finish. During the yellow, Tagliani's Team Penske entry sputtered to a stop on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile course. By the time his No. 22 Ford was refueled and equipped with racing slicks as the track began to dry, he was back in 23rd place as the last car on the lead lap.
But Tagliani's car thrived on the dry-weather tires for the two-lap dash to the finish, furiously rallying into the top five on the long white-flag lap. In driving all the way to a runner-up finish behind race winner Brendan Gaughan, Tagliani brushed with Elliott as they worked through Turns 12 and 13, forcing both cars out of shape. It left Elliott, still laboring on wet-weather tires, settling for fourth and making a point to talk with the Canadian after the race.
"As soon as he saw my slicks, he goes, 'OK, I understand,'" said Tagliani, who was making his first NASCAR start since 2012. "He took away the dry line so for me to pass him, I had to go in the wet, but I'm on slicks so for sure, I slid door to door, but I was already on the inside of him. Finally, he said he understood, so I said, 'good job.' That was it."
Elliott's version of the chat was much the same, but he indicated there may have been more take than give on Tagliani's part.
"He had slicks on and I understand where he's coming from. I know he's trying to go for the win, but at that point on the race track, he's not going to catch the 62 (Gaughan)," Elliott said. "I know those guys are racing for an owners' championship and we are, too. I think it's just a little bit of respect. That could've very easily wrecked both of us there, and he just happened to get it out of gear and save it.
"I just hate to take a chance -- we just have three corners to go, and you're going to wreck both of us. I just hate to see it go down like that."
And Elliott later took to Twitter to address what he said about Tagliani on ESPN.
Even with the slightly sour final outcome, Elliott was able to take some solace in the big-picture outlook and his ability to power through difficulties. Despite losing all of Friday's practice time after he missed a shift on his warm-up lap, forcing his JR Motorsports team to change engines in his No. 9 Chevrolet, Elliott battled back. The driver also recovered from an off-course moment in the race and managed to chop nine points off Regan Smith's lead in the series standings. He remains third, but ranks just 11 points back heading to the Nationwide Series' next event, Friday at Kentucky Speedway.
"I wouldn't say great," Elliott said in describing his day. "We were just caught in some good circumstances for us there at the end that put us in position. Failure number three on the weekend for me -- so missed shift yesterday, ran off the track and then couldn't get the job done -- so I'm going to have to step up before we come back to one of these places."