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June 8, 2023

Rick Hendrick accepts Chase Elliott suspension, but calls aggressive driving ‘a fine line’


Team owner Rick Hendrick speaks with the media during Thursday's Garage 56 'Meet the Team' availability in Le Mans, France
Tiffany Payne
CoForce for NASCAR

LE MANS, France — NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick said that last weekend’s one-race suspension of Chase Elliott for rough driving was a punishment that was accepted, but that his drivers should have an outlet for voicing their displeasure for on-track incidents with their rivals.

Hendrick was soaking in a different style of motoring press overseas during Thursday afternoon’s “Meet the Team” availability at Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe, supporting his Hendrick Motorsports’ Garage 56 entry alongside partners NASCAR, Chevrolet and Goodyear. But the Hall of Famer’s racing operations back across the Atlantic still had his attention, including the recent penalty to Elliott that forced him to the sidelines for the Cup Series’ most recent race outside of St. Louis.

RELATED: Elliott moves on from penalty | Garage 56 coverage

The disciplinary actions stemmed from Elliott’s retaliation in crashing Denny Hamlin during last month’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But Hendrick also spoke Thursday to the overall culture of on-track aggression, suggesting that NASCAR competition officials might intercede.

“I think you have to accept it if you did it. But when you get roughed up and you get roughed up by the same person all the time or multiple times in a race, the frustration sets in and you just … you’ve ruined my day, I’m gonna ruin your day,” Hendrick told NASCAR.com. “And I think NASCAR is gonna calm that down, but until something was done, they were going to keep on doing it. So I don’t like it, but I feel like our guys have the right to retaliate, but we’ve got to now not wreck the guy.”

Elliott returns to Hendrick’s No. 9 Chevrolet this weekend for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tuesday, the 27-year-old driver told NASCAR.com that the incident was an “unfortunate circumstance on many accounts, and I hate that we’re in the position that we’re in,” but that he understood and respected competition officials’ decision to suspend him.

MORE: Weekend schedule for Sonoma

Two days later and an ocean away, Hendrick said he’d prefer to see disputes settled outside of the car than on the track.

“I’d rather after the race confront them and ask them what the deal is,” Hendrick said. “But our sport’s been about pushing and shoving. It’s a fine line when you get over that. If somebody pushes and shoves you and puts you out of the race, then what are you going to do?”

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