Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott were left unimpressed with Ross Chastain early in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway after a series of incidents among the three drivers.
Chastain’s first incident of the race involved Hamlin, last week’s winner of the Coca-Cola 600. Stuck behind Hamlin for numerous laps, Chastain knocked the back bumper of Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota entering Turn 1 at Lap 64 while fighting for sixth. That sent Hamlin into the SAFER Barrier between Turns 1 and 2 with the right side of his car, negating Hamlin’s chances of winning the Cup Series’ inaugural trip to Gateway.
Hamlin’s crew repaired the damage to keep the No. 11 car on the track. Hamlin showed his displeasure to Chastain as the No. 1 Chevrolet lapped him twice, driving both cars low to the backstretch grass and challenging Chastain later in Turn 1.
At the end of a Lap 101 restart, Chastain’s right front contacted the left rear of Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet exiting Turn 4. The two were on the outside of a three-wide situation with Austin Dillon to Chastain’s left. Chastain’s car collided with Elliott’s, sending the Hendrick Motorsports driver sideways across the track. Collected as collateral damage were Bubba Wallace, who spun, and rookie Harrison Burton, who contacted the left side of Elliott’s car.
On the next restart, Elliott made sure Chastain was aware of his frustration, hitting the No. 1 car in the left rear and sending him up the track in Turn 2 — and Hamlin got involved afterward, with his No. 11 sideswiping Chastain’s car as he drove by. The duo later collided again, with Chastain sending Elliott into Turn 1 and into BJ McLeod’s No. 78 Ford.
After taking the checkered flag in eighth place, Chastain immediately took fault for his on-track run-ins.
“Just terrible driving,” Chastain told FOX Sports. “It’s one thing to do it once, but I just kept driving into guys and at this level, I’m supposed to be better than that. Just a shame for Moose and Advent Health and Jockey and Worldwide Express. And to have all these people believing in me, (Trackhouse Racing owners) Justin Marks and Pitbull to put me in this car, they deserve better.”
Hamlin, who finished 34th, 11 laps off the pace, wasn’t quite satisfied with Chastain’s remorse.
“I mean, it’s good he takes responsibility,” Hamlin said. “But, you know, ultimately, it ruined our day. I think we were kind of racing hard there for a while with him on the inside, and he tried to keep sliding up in front of us and 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 after he tucked in behind us that he wrecked us.
“Yeah, the unfortunate part is it didn’t look like he got too shy after that, because I believe he hit the 9 (Elliott) after that one, but yeah, you just … we all have learned the hard way, and we’ve all had to have it come back around on us and it’ll be no different.”
Elliott wound up 21st on the results sheet.
Chastain noted his plans to confer with the drivers he felt he wronged Sunday, but admitted uncertainty in any apology’s weight.
“I owe half the field an apology,” Chastain said. “And words aren’t going to fix it, so I’ll have to pay for it on the track and almost did today. And I deserve everything that they do. I just 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 we go green and I drive into somebody. That’s terrible.”