UPDATE: Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, says that the sanctioning body is looking at the comments made by Denny Hamlin on his podcast ‘Actions Detremental’ on Monday, in regards to an incident with Ross Chastain in the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway.
“Without a doubt, it’s on our radar,” said Elton Sawyer. “Last night late this information was provided to me, so we’ll get our team together this morning we’ll go through that very similar to the other parts and pieces that we brought back from Phoenix, and we’ll decide how we go forward. I’m aware of it, and we’ll dissect that early this morning and see where we go.”
Should any penalties stem from Hamlin’s comments, they would likely be announced at some point during the week, along with any potential penalties from the louvers confiscated by NASCAR over the course of the weekend.
Several months have passed since the fuse was initially lit on an intense rivalry between Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
It’s a story that has harbored a significant amount of attention throughout the NASCAR Cup Series, as the two championship-caliber drivers seemingly exchanged weekly blows – on-track, off-track, in the press, or sometimes on social media.
However, after an incident in the final laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway – which saw Hamlin and Chastain collide in the middle of turns one and two – it appears the two drivers have reached a so-called ‘peace treaty’.
It took a long time and several on-track incidents to get to this point, though, with Sunday’s exchange of vinyl on the last lap serving as the catalyst for a productive conversation between the two drivers, even if Hamlin admits the action of putting Chastain into the wall was no accident.
Hamlin spoke about the incident in the final laps on his podcast ‘Actions Detrimental’ on Monday.
“At the end of the race, me and Ross [Chastain] got into it,” Hamlin said. “I got to the end of the race, I saw he was on the outside of me, I went into turn one with the mindset that I am going to try to get the best finish I can get. I’m on two tires, and I go into turn one, and while I even went shallow on speed, my car plowed. I turned the wheel and the front tires were just going straight.”
During the final cycle of pit stops, which came under a late-race caution for a spin by Harrison Burton, Hamlin was one of six drivers to change only two tires – a group that included eventual winner William Byron.
“They were calling the No. 1 to the outside. So at that point, I knew I was screwed. I was about to go backward, I had all of the four-tire cars on my ass, and they were going to pass me,” Hamlin explained. “I know I had two fresh-tire cars underneath me anyways. I was four-wide, and I’m like ‘I’m going straight to the back.'”
Hamlin further explains that Chris Gabehart, the crew chief on the No. 11 Toyota Camry TRD, relayed the message that there were 18 cars on the lead lap and that the Chesterfield, Virginia-native was expecting to get passed by the car on new tires, fairly quickly.
“I’m about to finish in the mid-teens, and I said ‘you’re coming with me, buddy.'”
Chastain and Hamlin would tumble to 23rd and 24th at the conclusion of Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500, costing each driver several points as they regressed from their positions inside the top-10.
“It wasn’t a mistake,” Hamlin reiterated. “I let the wheel go and I said he’s coming with me.”
“My ideal situation was I was going to kind of knock him into the fence a bit, and then keep going,” Hamlin explained. “He actually got the jump because he downshifted quicker and then he brake-checked me a few times, you saw that on the on-board down the backstretch, he hit the brakes a couple of times, and I wasn’t letting off at all, it didn’t matter to me.”
“Then after he brake checks, then I went into the next corner and tried. I’ll be honest with you, the motherfucker is hard to spin. When he knows it’s coming, he is the hardest guy to wreck on the planet. I just wanted to get back to racing with him, and I think that’s what a lot of the conversation we had afterward.”
The Chesterfield, Virginia native recalls Chastain approaching him to have a conversation after the incident happened on Sunday, and started the discussion with “well, I guess I deserved that one.” In the end, though, Hamlin says the talk was productive and exactly what was needed to act as a reset.
“We talked and I think we’re in a better place, where I think we’re willing to put the past behind us, and I think that we’re going to judge each other from this point forward. As far as this season is concerned, he got me, and while it didn’t cost him, it did cost me at the Clash, it cost both of us here, but that’s my shitty execution, so that’s not his fault.”
Continuing, Hamlin said: “I think we just need to race each other with better respect from this point forward, and that’s what I hope to get out of this. He asked for a truce, I asked for a truce, and let’s just see how it goes from here. There are no promises, but also, I just said ‘Chastain, I really need to get some respect, you clearly don’t respect me for whatever reason.'”
“I was in the conversation practically begging him to take accountability for the rest, I had to kind of push him into taking that accountability, but I think I heard what I wanted to hear, and now I’m ready to move on, and hopefully, he’s ready to move on and we’re going to race each other hard and clean in the future, and now we’re going to move on.”
You can watch the full episode of ‘Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin’ wherever you get your podcasts, or by clicking below: