A top NASCAR competition official said Tuesday the sanctioning body would monitor any further developments among Ross Chastain and his rivals, saying officials would step in as needed to prevent the matter from escalating.
The remarks came from Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, during an appearance Tuesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Chastain had drawn the ire of both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott in the first half of last Sunday’s Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway, making contact with both drivers in his No. 1 Trackhouse Chevrolet. Both Hamlin and Elliott made maneuvers in retaliation, with Hamlin repeatedly crowding or blocking Chastain in the laps that followed.
Hamlin’s actions drew a mid-race rebuke from NASCAR race control, which in effect told the Joe Gibbs Racing driver that he’d proven his point with his first brushback move. Tuesday, Miller said competition officials would discuss the matter during their weekend debrief and could call the drivers in for a conference in the officials’ hauler in an attempt to defuse the situation.
“I mean, certainly we don’t like to see things like that, but there’s a certain amount of … we kind of have to let them handle it on their own somewhat,” Miller told SiriusXM. “And what we saw, while we were annoyed by it, there was no real contact. Neither one. I mean, they tried to make life miserable for Ross, we all witnessed that. But at least we didn’t see a blatant take-out or anything like that. And it was obvious from Ross’ post-race comments that he’s made some mistakes out there and wants to make it right, but it’s kind of up to those guys to sort it out and how it moves forward from there.
“We’ll obviously keep a close eye on them as we do in all these situations. Probably will, may have them in the trailer face to face to talk about it as we’ve done before. We have our debrief, actually just after this call of the race weekends. We do that on Tuesday mornings, and we’ll discuss that situation further and decide how we’re going to move forward with it.”
Miller indicated competition officials had not consulted with Chastain, Hamlin or Elliott since the conclusion of the Enjoy Illinois 300.
“We haven’t spoken to any of the parties,” Miller said. “It’s usually better to kind of let things die down and speak to him before we hit the track again, rather than do it at the race track. We’ll do that if absolutely necessary, but in this situation where there was no sort of blatant take-out in retaliation, best to kind of let that calm down a bit, and then have a word with him later.”
In other topics discussed Tuesday:
— Miller addressed the emergency response to a last-lap crash in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at WWT Raceway. The stack-up left 19-year-old Carson Hocevar with unspecified injuries to his lower-right extremity, and he was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
Hocevar gave a thumbs-up as he was wheeled to the ambulance on a stretcher. He had lowered his window net as a signal to the safety crew that he was alert, but Hocevar could be heard on his team communications calling out for assistance.
“I think that that is their signal to us, that it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not going to try to hurry to get to the scene of the accident, but it does let us know that they’re obviously conscious, coherent, and that sort of thing,” said Miller, who added officials in race control review replays and crash footage as safety personnel are dispatched. “So it’s good to know that as they’re responding to an incident. One thing that everybody needs to know is the ambulance doesn’t have to be there for a doctor to be on the scene. There’s doctors in each of our chase vehicles, and we try to dispatch those as quickly as obviously as we can to the scene of the accident. There is traffic out there still, and we don’t want to compound the situation by forcing one of our vehicles up into race traffic that’s slowing down. So there’s just a lot of moving parts right there, and we certainly try to respond as quickly as we can, that’s obvious.
“We look at each situation and try to improve. We always look at where our stuff, where our equipment is located, and we’ll do it again, the debrief today on all of that and see if maybe there’s some place or positioning, or something that we could have done better. That’s one thing we certainly do at NASCAR every time is try to learn from every weekend, whether it’s good or something that we need to improve upon. So we always try to put our best foot forward.”
— Miller also addressed the issues of tire trouble with the Next Gen car, with speculation centering on teams pushing the limits of the air-pressure settings recommended by Goodyear, the series’ tire supplier. Miller said NASCAR officials would collaborate with the teams and with Goodyear, which he said was exploring an updated tire construction for its racing rubber.
“We review what Goodyear is seeing, we review all of the camber settings from all of the cars, because that’s part of our inspection process and kind of look at who was where and try to correlate problems with things — do the tire issues correlate with some of some of the setup parameters that that we’re able to see on our inspection process — and then just get with Goodyear,” Miller said. “Goodyear obviously has an at-track sort of inspection of the tires that failed, and even inspecting tires that didn’t fail by cutting them apart and seeing if there was any inherent damage and the situation maybe about to happen. So we look at all of those things very, very closely.
“I think we continually get the question of, well, should you check the pressures before they go on the cars? Trying to do that with 36 or 38 cars up and down pit road and do that accurately is really not something that is even in the realm of possibility. You can’t have your eyes on the teams at every second, and it only takes one second to hit that valve core and let air out. So that’s an unrealistic expectation that some people sailing in. It just isn’t practical and can’t happen. So it’s really up to Goodyear, us and the teams to figure this deal out. … So it is a little bit in the hands of the teams, no question. We’re not saying it’s all a team problem, but I think on that right now, they can do a lot to control their destiny there.”