Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: A Ross Chastain-Denny Hamlin Truce? Say It Ain’t So

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*

It all started back on June 6, when Ross “The Melon Man” Chastain locked fenders with Denny “Federal Express” Hamlin at the race track formally known as Gateway.

You liked it.

I liked it.

Denny Hamlin didn’t like it, did he?

*More cheers, someone throw a chair*

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: Mike Joy Defies Haters, Slow Reaction Hampers FOX in Phoenix

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.

See also
Holding A Pretty Wheel: NASCAR Moving in the Right Direction 1 Step at a Time

The Brad KeselowskiKyle Busch feud has been dormant for years, though the closing laps of the Daytona 500 in February whetted the appetite for another chapter.

Is this the end of the Chastain-Hamlin storyline?

For purely selfish reasons, I hope not.

At the least, they should consider going the Dale EarnhardtJeff Gordon route.

Play up the act for the public.

Then go into business together and make a profit off of it.

Everybody wins.

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

danielmcfadin
 | Website

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 danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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Bill B

Hamlin, what a dick. I hope he never gets his championship, and for that matter never wins another race. What a d-bag.

Dan

You took the words right out of my mouth Bill. But Hamlin is great at putting on a good front.

JD in NC

Full disclosure; I’ve never liked Hamlin, and he is currently my least favorite driver. I was in the stands at Martinsville last fall and loved seeing Chastain’s hail melon, especially since in knocked Denny out of the playoffs.
I see the difference between the two drivers as, by his own admission, Denny sees red and lets his emotions take over which leads to stupid actions. Ross appears to be much more calm and level headed, but sees every car on the track as someone else to pass to get one more position, and if that involves roughing them up a bit then so be it.

JD in NC

Wow, hours later my first post finally showed up!

JD in NC

Full disclosure; I’ve never liked Hamlin and he is currently my least favorite driver. I was at Martinsville last fall and loved seeing the hail melon in person, which was even better since it knocked Denny out of the playoffs.
As for the feud, the difference between Denny and Ross, as I see it is, Denny takes it more personal. By his own admission he sees red, and as happened in this case, that can result in stupid decisions. Chastain seems to be more calm and level headed, and just views everyone else on the track as another car to get past to improve his position, and if that sometimes results in ruffled feathers, so be it.

Bill B

From Jayski….

UPDATE: NASCAR will look into the actions and comments of Denny Hamlin in regards to his contact with Ross Chastain on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway.
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday that “without a doubt it’s on our radar,” in an interview on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Sawyer said he was made aware of Hamlin’s comments Monday night and series officials planned to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.

Haw-Haw

Christopher

“…and the first must-listen – episode of his podcast, Actions Detrimental.”

I take issue with this statement by the author. Hamlin’s podcast, as well as the Dale Jr. Download and Door Bumper Clear, are all must-listen for anyone actually interested in what goes on behind the scenes in NASCAR. You hear stuff on these that you’ll never read about, by the owners, drivers and spotters who are actually in the game every week.

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