RELATED: Elliott, Dillon give their perspectives on wreck
CONCORD, N.C. -- Leading 103 laps, Chase Elliott looked poised as a contender for the win in Sunday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But a Lap 258 wreck steered the No. 24 Chevrolet -- as well as the No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon -- to the garage, rather than Victory Lane, leaving the young drivers just outside the Chase bubble sitting ninth and 10th, respectively.
"We had such a good car and I am devastated that we didn't get the result that the guys deserved," Elliott said after the wreck, his No. 24 Chevrolet being scored 33rd. "They gave me such a fast 3M Chevy and that is all you can ask for. We just have got to go and do more of that next week."
Elliott hung back on pit road before the restart, trying to grab the preferred line. But he wasn't able to get the fourth spot and lined up fifth, as a gutsy two-tire call put Dillon on the front row. When the green flag waved, Martin Truex Jr. gave Dillon a shove, getting the No. 3 loose and sending it sharply into the SAFER barrier on the inside wall near the exit of pit road.
In a domino effect, Kyle Busch's No. 18 hit the back of Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet, causing Elliott to crash in the outside wall. Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch and Brian Scott were also involved in the multi-car melee that brought out the red flag for more than 10 minutes.
"It just sucks," Dillon said. "We will have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back. I felt like I got to third gear pretty clean and then the next thing -- I feel contact and I am spinning through the grass. It's part of it and we took two tires there and you know the risk when you get into it. You just hope that doesn't happen obviously."
Crew chief Slugger Labbe echoed his driver's disappointment.
"We had been behind most of the day and we tried to make something happen by taking two tires," Labbe told NASCAR.com in the garage. "We had 12 laps on the tires, thought it was the right call and on the restart, Austin had a good restart -- the EFI data we just downloaded clearly shows that Austin didn't spin the tires like the 48 did in the top groove -- and Martin (Truex Jr.) just got into him turning left.
"It's part of it ... (No. 78 crew chief) Cole Pearn already sent me a text saying him and Martin feel terrible and he flat out wrecked us. ... I'm sure Martin feels bad, (but that) doesn't fix it and Austin's pissed. It is what it is. We took a chance, it didn’t work out."
Truex, who finished 13th, immediately expressed regret for his actions on the radio and then again after the race.
"Unfortunate, but more importantly I want to say that I'm sorry to Austin Dillon, the 3 team, Slugger and all those guys," Truex said on pit road following the 500-mile event. "I know they're working hard and they certainly didn't need me to turn them around on that restart. I feel terrible about that. I was just trying to help get him going and just pushed way too hard so I just want to apologize to those guys and hopefully I can talk to Austin and make sure he's OK with everything."
Elliott and Dillon weren't the only Chase drivers to experience misfortune: Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota blew up late in the race, while Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano experienced electric and tire issues, respectively, that left them at the bottom of the Chase Grid.
For Labbe, that provides a little encouragement with two races left before the next round of eliminations.
"We were the underdogs, no one expected us to be here, so we could take chances," Labbe said. "We took a chance, unfortunately we got dumped, that's the way it goes. The thing that's neat going to Kansas is there's five Chase guys that had a bad day: the 11 blowing up, obviously the 4 guys, us ... So it's kind of crazy, but it is what it is -- you don't want it to happen but it's the Chase and you gotta win."