Sunday, June 4, 2023

Ross Chastain Apologizes, Takes Blame; Denny Hamlin Says it’ll Come Back Around

Ross Chastain scored an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at WWT Raceway, but he made a lot of enemies along the way. (Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing)

While Ross Chastain escaped Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway with a solid eighth-place finish, the 29-year old driver ruffled a lot of feathers on the day.

Upon climbing from his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing machine, Chastain owned up to his mistakes from behind the wheel.

“Terrible driving,” Chastain said of his day. “It’s one thing to do it once, but I just kept driving into guys. At this level, I’m supposed to be better than that. It’s just a shame for Moose, AdventHealth, Jockey, Worldwide Express. I have all these people believing in me, Justin Marks and Pitbull to put me in this car, they deserve better.”

Chastain was asked by FOX Sports’ Jamie Little if he would reach out to Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, who were on the receiving end of incidents with him in the race. Chastain was full of remorse and explained that he fully expects to get the same in return on the racetrack.

“I will [reach out], yeah. I owe half the field an apology and words aren’t going to fix it,” Chastain explained. “I’ll have to pay for it on the track. I almost did today and I deserve everything that they do. I can’t believe that I continue to make the same mistakes and overdrive the corners and drive into guys. I had time under caution to get reset and I drive into somebody. It’s terrible.”

While Elliott, the sport’s most popular driver, was upset enough from a lap 103 run-in with Chastain, to get into Chastain during the next green flag run, it was Hamlin who was the person who without a doubt took the most exception to Chastain’s driving on Sunday.

Hamlin was running ahead of Chastain in the fourth position for the majority of the opening Stage of Sunday’s race. While Chastain tried numerous times to get around Hamlin, he just could not pull off the pass.

On lap 66, Chastain tried a different method — the chrome horn.

Chastain made contact, which sent Hamlin hard into the wall. The contact with the wall broke the toe link on the No. 11 Toyota Camry, but his team made repairs and Hamlin was able to stay in the race.

From there, Hamlin’s goal was to make Chastain’s life a living hell — and he did.

Hamlin took at least five swipes at retaliation on Chastain throughout the race (that FS1 caught on their broadcast), but at the end of the day, Hamlin did not feel that he and Chastain were even.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s good he takes responsibility. But ultimately, it ruined our day,” Hamlin seethed. “You know, I think we were kind of racing hard there for a while with him on the inside. He tried to keep sliding up in front of us, but he wasn’t able to because I wasn’t willing to just back off and let him slide up in front. It didn’t take long until after he tucked in behind us that he wrecked us.

“The unfortunate part is that it didn’t look like he got too shy after that, because he got [Chase Elliott] after that one. You just — we all have learned the hard way and we have all had it come back around on us. It’ll be no different.”

Chastain is tied with Hamlin, William Byron and Joey Logano for the series lead with two wins this season, but after Sunday’s race at Gateway, it’s apparent that Chastain will have to watch his back for a while.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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