Another race, another opportunity for Ross Chastain to make friends, or as has been the case much of 2022, a few enemies.
Chastain has been known as an aggressive driver, according to some of his fellow competitors a little too aggressive at times.
At Gateway in June, he was involved in clashes with several drivers, most notably Denny Hamlin that lasted nearly the entire race.
Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway his aggressive moves were once again the subject of other drivers, starting with Austin Dillon. On lap 92 Chastain was part of a nine-car crash that swept up Dillon, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, and several others. Most were able to continue, the exception being Dillon was scored with a DNF in 35th.
“I didn’t see what was going on from the bottom lane,” Dillon said. “I just saw cars wrecking and I tried to shoot the gap. Looks like the 1 (Chastain) was into the 19 (Truex) too hard and got him wrecked. The 1, once he gets someone out of whack, he just saves himself.”
Hamlin was the leading Toyota for much of the race and running inside the top five for most of the day. But, on lap 247 while both were running inside the top 10 Chastain slipped up entering Turn 4 with his Chevy hitting the rear quarter panel of Hamlin’s Toyota sending it spinning. Hamlin would later be involved in a crash that set up the final dash to the finish. He was scored 25th.
“We were in really good position, and we were about to be clear of the 1 (Chastain) and be in third in the outside line,” Hamlin said. “I was really happy with where I was at for sure. I think the 1 probably sensed that we were about to clear him, so he chased us up there and got into us.”
“Everyone has different tolerance levels and as you all know, I’ve reached my peak,’’ he added.
Later Hamlin put the blame squarely on Chastain.
“I think Ross probably saw that we were gonna clear and, you know, it probably wasn’t gonna be great for his positioning,” Hamlin said. ”It was, bad day for us.”
As for any future retaliation:
“I mean, things just work themselves out in the end.” Hamlin said, adding with a chuckle. “You know, we certainly aren’t cutting any breaks, going forward.
“Beyond that…as a driver, you make decisions and you know, I talked about those decisions; eventually you gotta pay for those decisions that you make.
“Whatever happens in the future happens, but we’re gonna be racing each pretty hard here for the rest of the year.”
For his part after the race unlike his apologies after Gateway, Chastain was focused only on his runner up finish.
“Yeah, I hated that I took the best car here and I tore it up a couple times, but yeah, it’s incredible,” he said. “Hats off to Chevrolet and Trackhouse for bringing this fast of a Jockey Chevrolet to be able to come back. Our road crew and pit crew did an awesome job to rebound through all the damage repair, and we had a shot.”
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