With multiple green-white-checker restart attempts during Sunday’s (March 26) NASCAR Cup race at Circuit of The Americas, there was bound to be some hurt feelings.
This isn’t the first time there’s been some rumblings of discontent between the two, but is this just the result of two young, competitive drivers being in close proximity or is there a potential rivalry brewing within one of NASCAR’s newest success stories?
This week Trenton Worsham and Wyatt Watson air their differences in 2-Headed Headed Monster.
Brothers Are Brothers, at the Track & in the House
Look, the biggest competition between drivers in any form of motorsport is their own teammates. We see this on display on the hit Netflix show Drive To Survive, but in terms of a pure rivalry between the two Trackhouse Racing drivers boiling over into more, I just don’t see that yet.
Also, unlike Formula 1, NASCAR seems to use its drivers to help the other with setups and overall race craft rather than beat the other or have weekly team orders to help the other win.
What I saw on Sunday was Chastain and Suarez battling it out in a hot, long, drawn out race, the result of multiple overtime attempts with Alex Bowman in the mix. One driver bumped another and Suarez was unfortunately the casualty of the matter.
It seemed on pit road he was more upset with Bowman in the aftermath, as he bumped Chastain to the side and repeatedly rammed into the rear of Bowman.
If anyone has been following Suarez’s career closely, you do see he actually does race with a chip on his shoulder, after being in very fast cars at Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing throughout his career.
Trackhouse Racing became his landing spot and the team saw almost overnight results and success. However, it was no secret that Chastain did outperform his teammate in 2022, making the final four and finishing second in the playoffs after the Phoenix Raceway championship race.
Obviously, Suarez wishes it were him in that position, but it is a new season and both cars once again have speed every week, and one week doesn’t define a bitter rivalry spilling over outside of the organization.
Team owner Justin Marks is also about one team and being a family.
I think if anything spilled over from the weekend, it will be addressed in this week’s team meetings. Suarez may have bigger issues to focus on as well, considering officials were on pit road when he bumped Chastain and Bowman, which has resulted in a $50,000 fine.
I assume that fine and the perception of it is a bit more impactful than some strong words from his teammate. NASCAR is a contact sport in some ways and it’ll happen, even between teammates, but one time or some historically here and there does not indicate issues spilling over.
I think the best example of an inner rivalry between two teammates boiling over into the races and media was in 2007 and 2010 between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Johnson would go on to win the title that year but throughout the season radio chatter and close-quarters racing between the two drivers became a common occurrence.
Until we see Chastain and Suarez moving each other every other week on the track, I would say this “rivalry” is much ado about nothing. In fact, Suarez is probably the only driver who Chastain hasn’t punted himself through over the last year. – Trenton Worsham
A Trackhouse Divided Cannot Stand
The glaring rift between Chastain and Suarez has been present for almost a year now.
If you rewind back to last year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Suarez had similar feelings on how Chastain raced him during the event. Suarez clearly let everyone know that in USA’s Race for the Championship series as well.
Last weekend at Circuit of the Americas, the same frustration was aggravated once again.
After Chastain made contact with Bowman that spun Martin Truex Jr. around in turn 1 right in front of Suarez, it left the driver of the No. 99 with many questions about what his teammate did.
“He [Bowman] just went in straight, and the 1 pushed him against me.” Suarez said over the radio. “Can anyone explain what the 1 was trying to do there?”
It was clear once the checkered flag flew that Suarez wanted to get to the bumpers of Bowman and Chastain, and he found them coming into pit lane after the cooldown lap.
“Where’s the 48 and the 1?” Suarez asked his team.
After getting told they were around second and fourth, Suarez sped up to catch both of them and give the bumper to both when entering pit road.
From my vantage point on pit road and after interviewing Chastain, it was clear Suarez was not happy with how his teammate raced him and that Chastain was very frustrated himself.
Afterwards, Suarez was approached by Bowman, who clarified that Chastain was the one that got in the back of him.
Once Suarez was done with Bowman, he and Chastain had a long talk while Chastain was still in his car, and after Chastain got out of the car, he continued to debate the incident with his disappointed and annoyed teammate. It seemed like Chastain was trying to tell him that the No. 14 of Chase Briscoe went deep into the first turn as well, but Suarez gave the melon man a disappointed dad look after he asked his teammate to not “be all high and mighty.”
After their conversation, Suarez stormed off the pit lane while Chastain went to his media availability after his interview with FOX. During his interview he provided his perspective of the confrontation.
“He’s mad at me for being two rows back. He’s always mad at me. No, he’s not always mad at me. He’s just mad at a restart.
“That’s what I said! I’m getting run into, and I’m running into people. I got spun a couple restarts before, and he got it later. I didn’t get mad when I got spun. I just tried to get my car to start. I don’t understand how we can be so upset at the crazy restarts that we’re doing.”
Chastain seemingly won’t change his type of racing anytime soon now being second in points following the successful appeal of the Hendrick Motorsports penalties rescinding the 100-point fines from a few weeks back, but eventually, he is going to have no friends on the track if he continues driving like this for a second-straight year.
We have yet to see the effect that these actions by both Chastain and Suarez will produce, but if you ask me, Trackhouse Racing has some obvious strife between its two talented drivers. Team owner Justin Marks is going to have to corral his drivers and get them back on the same page in the next few weeks before this escalates further. – Wyatt Watson
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