Chase Elliott Penalty: Jeff Gordon Doesn’t Mince Words About NASCAR’s Surprise Decision
March’s Las Vegas race didn’t feature any sort of Chase Elliott penalty, largely because the NASCAR driver missed the event, his first of multiple absences after suffering a knee injury while snowboarding.
The 2020 champion’s return to Sin City in early October didn’t go much better, as he endured one of his worst performances in 2023, including a surprise penalty. After the race, Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman and former driver of the famed rainbow Chevrolet, jubilantly celebrated with Kyle Larson in Victory Lane but was asked about what happened with the No. 9 team.
The Hall of Famer didn’t mince words about the sanctioning body’s decision.
The penalty wasn’t Chase Elliott’s only struggle at Las Vegas
Chase Elliott had run 15 laps during Saturday’s Group A practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and was impressive, posting the second-best time behind Tyler Reddick. However, any good feelings about that performance quickly disappeared when the No. 9 cut a right-rear tire, got sideways, and slammed the right side of the car into the wall.
Moving to the backup car and unable to qualify, Elliott started from the back of the field in 35th.
Unfortunately for the sport’s most popular driver and his fans, his situation didn’t improve during the race as he struggled to move forward, finishing 29th in Stage 1 and 22nd in Stage 2. Late in the proceedings, with 45 laps to go, NASCAR added insult to injury when it penalized the HMS driver for laying back on a restart and forced him to serve a pass-through penalty.
He finished the race a lap down in 31st.
Jeff Gordon disagreed with NASCAR on Chase Elliott penalty
While Chase Elliott had a forgettable race, HMS teammate Kyle Larson had a memorable one, winning for the fourth time this year and, more importantly, locking himself into the Championship 4 in Phoenix.
After the race, Jeff Gordon celebrated in Victory Lane and talked with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang about the HMS cars, including the performance of the No. 9 team.
“Just a rough weekend altogether. Such a bummer that they had that tire go down in practice and set them back all weekend,” Gordon said. “Really was optimistic that with the backup car, seeing how hard the guys worked and came together, that they were going to have a good day.
“I haven’t talked to Chase. Just sounds like it wasn’t really ever there. He got himself into a good position. I’ll be honest with you — I got to go relook at the call that NASCAR made for the penalty. He was going to be in the top 15, which would have been a nice solid day. And they called that penalty on him hanging back.
“I disagree. I thought they stacked up, and he closed it up before they got to the zone. But that was their call. It pretty much took every chance of them having a good finish away.”
Ready to move on to 2024
While Jeff Gordon may not agree with NASCAR’s decision to enforce the Chase Elliott penalty, he can’t say his driver was singled out. The sanctioning body has warned drivers for months about laying back on restarts, and the No. 9 was the second car penalized during the race. The previous week’s race winner on the Charlotte Roval, AJ Allmendinger, suffered the same penalty earlier in the day.
Surprisingly, this isn’t Elliott’s most notable penalty in 2023. That came at the Coca-Cola 600 in May when the 27-year-old retaliated and hooked Denny Hamlin into the wall. The HMS driver received a one-race suspension.
Penalties. Suspensions. Missed races due to injury. The 2024 season can’t come soon enough for Chase Elliott. And after his weekend in Vegas, appropriately enough, the odds will be in his favor that he’ll return closer to the form that won him a title a couple of years ago and not the run of misfortune that dogged him throughout this season.