Ladieeeeees and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, it’s that time again.
*loud, frenzied cheering*
We’ve had a fun year here in the NASCAR Thunderdome, haven’t we?
*Loud, sustained hollering*
*More cheers, someone throw a chair*
More fuel was thrown on the fire in Hotlanta, when Mr. Chastain sent Mr. Hamlin for a spin.
Afterward, Hamlin said he had “reached my peak” when it came to the Trackhouse Racing driver.
Hamlin showed it two races later at Pocono Raceway when he conveniently fenced Chastain into the turn 1 wall on a restart, triggering a wreck and ending Ross Chastain’s day.
Months later at the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the two found each other again. This time Chastain got in deep into a turn and sent Hamlin around.
Now, as we discovered Monday (March 13), all this transpired after the drivers held a peace summit over breakfast in the immediate aftermath of their initial encounter at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Hamlin revealed this himself in the latest – and the first must-listen – episode of his podcast, Actions Detrimental.
“He invited me, said ‘Hey, I’d like to meet you in person versus over the phone. Let’s talk about this,'” Hamlin recounted. “I got to really know his upbringing and why he races the way he races versus the way I race because I find it very interesting. We all get brought up very different ways, and we start in different series. …
“It made a lot of sense to me why he’s as aggressive as he is. They always say that you don’t get your values out of thin air, right? You get your values from your parents and the people that you surround yourself around as a kid. …
“And it was very apparent to me that he got pushed around a little bit and the people that he was racing with in the early series, that’s what they did to get wins. They just knocked each other the other way and spun each other and that’s what he saw and that just kind of kept going.”
I wrote about this when this Next Gen Feud for the Next Gen Era first started back in June.
Chastain grew up scrapping for all he could to make it to NASCAR’s Big Dance.
So when he finally got there, he stuck with what he knew, even when he was secure in his role at Trackhouse.
Why was Hamlin talking about My Breakfast with Ross from roughly nine months ago?
Phoenix Raceway happened.
A late-race restart saw a mad scramble into turn 1. It also saw Hamlin get into the turn poorly, sending his No. 11 Toyota up the track.
Who was there, stuck between Hamlin and a hard place?
Surprise, surprise: it was Chastain.
Here’s how it played out from their respective on-board cameras.
“My crew chief (had) told me there was 18 cars on the lap,” Hamlin said on his podcast, detailing his thought process during the restart.
“I’m about to get passed by everybody behind me who’s on fresh tires. I’m about to finish in the mid-teens. And I said, ‘you’re coming with me, buddy.’ … It wasn’t a mistake. I unleashed, I let the wheel go and I said he’s coming with me. … I said ‘Well, I’m gonna finish anyway, and I’m just going to make sure that he finishes right here with me.”
In the top 10 at the time of the restart, Hamlin finished 23rd and Chastain was 24th, the last two cars on the lead lap.
Hamlin and Chastain had a long conversation on pit road afterward, one that apparently ended with them finally coming to a truce.
“He came up to me and he says, ‘I guess I deserve it,” Hamlin recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.'”
Hamlin said he told Chastain “I really need to get some respect. Clearly, you don’t respect me for whatever reason, right?’ And people have a right to not respect me. Maybe I’ve done them wrong in the past, in something I’m not aware of, but tell me what it is. And maybe I can give you an explanation or I can say, you know, that’s my fault, and then I need to do better.”
After their conversation Hamlin believes “that we are 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, and I think that’s the fairest way to do it. …
“He asked for a truce, and I asked for a truce, and let’s just see how it goes from here.
“There’s no promises.”
After the race, my dad texted me to ask what had happened to Chastain. When I informed him of his fate, he responded, “Those two get together more than any other drivers ever.”
I know. Wasn’t it great?
Back in June at Gateway, sitting in the grandstands and watching Hamlin go out of his way to make Chastain’s day miserable was, quite simply, entertaining. You just don’t see that very often.
It was like that with every other run-in that followed.
When Chastain and Hamlin were near each other, who couldn’t help but perk up a little bit?
Rivalries are the lifeblood of NASCAR and the NASCAR Thunderdome.
Before the Chastain-Hamlin saga, I’m hard pressed to remember the last long-running bitter rivalry.
Is this the end of the Chastain-Hamlin storyline?
For purely selfish reasons, I hope not.
Play up the act for the public.
Then go into business together and make a profit off of it.
Everybody wins.Follow @DanielMcFadin
2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com.
The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.
You can email him at email@example.com.
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