CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman had just advanced to the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs when he climbed from his car and slumped to the ground, dehydrated and overcome by the heat.
As Bowman received medical attention, Bubba Wallace approached him and angrily splashed liquid in his face.
That closing image capped a sloppy Sunday in scorching temperatures at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Chase Elliott won despite crashing head on into a tire barrier earlier on the combination road-and-oval course nicknamed the "Roval." Elliott was leading on a restart headed into the first turn when he locked his brakes and drove his car directly off the course before crashing into the makeshift wall.
"I couldn't believe I did that. That was just so stupid," Elliott said. "I don't know that you could have done anything more stupid leading this race than what I did right there. Luckily our car wasn't too bad fast enough to drive up through there, got the cautions at the right time and just didn't quit.
"If there's ever a lesson to not quit, today was the example."
Elliott celebrated by returning to the corner where he had crashed and placing the nose of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro against the barrier before smoking its tires.
"I was coming back and saw that dang thing and thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity to redeem myself," he explained.
The winner, though, was not the focus after NASCAR's first elimination race of these playoffs.
The spotlight was on the four drivers who would be trimmed from the 16-driver championship field, and Bowman spent the entire race fighting for a spot in the second round. He crashed his car in the final moments of practice Saturday and had to go to a backup, then spun in the opening laps Sunday, deliberately spun Wallace in anger and had to claw his way to a second-place finish.
But the 1-2 finish for Hendrick was no guarantee Bowman would advance. Ryan Newman, further back in the field, had the points advantage on Bowman, who had no control of his own fate.
Then Newman, racing Aric Almirola over the final few laps for a shot at advancing, missed a chicane with two laps remaining and the error eliminated him from the playoffs.
"I felt like I made a lot of mistakes trying too hard," said Newman, who also stalled the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford Mustang during a pit stop. "We did not have the race car, and that's what I had to do."
The points difference swung to Bowman, who couldn't celebrate because he needed immediate medical attention. As Bowman was slumped next to his car and surrounded by medical personnel, Wallace approached him. The two had a brief verbal exchange, and Bowman appeared to laugh at Wallace just before Wallace angrily splashed the liquid from the bottle he was carrying in Bowman's face.
Bowman was later treated in the infield care center for dehydration and said he spun Wallace for flipping his middle finger at him repeatedly on track.
"I got flipped off for every single straightaway for three laps, flipped off by him for like three or four laps in a row at Richmond (Raceway), so I'm just over it. He probably wouldn't have got wrecked if he had his finger back in the car, right?" Bowman said. "Probably shouldn't repeat what he said to me, but nothing classy by any means.
"I get it. I'd be mad, too, but he put himself in that spot."
Championship chances ended for Newman, Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.
A late caution led NASCAR to stop the race for a cleanup and the drivers had to sit inside their cockpits, where temperatures hovered around 120 degrees. Officials went car to car handing out water bottles, and Newman was one of many who radioed his crew asking for bags of ice to be waiting when the race ended.
Kyle Busch decided he wasn't going to sit in the heat and drove his car to the garage, calling it a race with seven laps remaining. He was three laps down at the time and already locked into the second round of the playoffs.
Kevin Harvick finished third and was followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who was in danger of being eliminated from the playoffs but advanced with his fourth-place finish. Brad Keselowski was fifth and followed by pole-sitter William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney as playoff drivers finished in the top eight spots.