Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Dover: For Ross Chastain, When Does ‘I’m Sorry’ Not Be Enough?

What Happened?

Martin Truex Jr. held off Ross Chastain with only two fresh tires after a late-race restart to claim his first victory since 2021 at Dover Motor Speedway on Monday, May 1. Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Denny Hamlin completed the top five finishers.

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion snapped a 54-race losing streak with his victory and swept the weekend for the Truex name after his brother Ryan Truex won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

See also
Martin Truex Jr. Snaps Winless Streak with Dover Victory

But What Really Happened?

Here we go again.

At one point or another, chances are that Chastain has probably at least been the cause of a wreck involving your favorite driver. Heck, he might have done it just recently on Monday if you’re a Kyle Larson fan.

But if you’re a fan of Larson – or Brennan Poole for that matter – you should be happy to know that the Melon Man apologized for the contact immediately after on the radio. He, as he has done in the past, stated that he did not mean to cause the incident.

And you know what? Maybe he didn’t. He very likely doesn’t like being the brunt of the “Thanks Ross” jokes that we’ve all seen on social media. He also likely doesn’t like to have to watch his list of friends dwindle within the Cup garage area week after week. When Chastain apologizes, he probably does mean it.

But frankly, that doesn’t matter anymore.

As FOX commentator Clint Bowyer hinted at on the broadcast, Chastain being the cause of a crash that involves other drivers has become almost a matter of “when” rather than “if.”

Why does it keep happening then?

NASCAR has always been a self-policing sport, as drivers often retaliate in the same fashion they were wronged. So, when will a driver finally retaliate? Who will climb out of the car after shoving Chastain the wrong way and say to the swarming media scrum, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to.”?

Because so far, despite all of the griping, groaning and finger pointing aimed at the No. 1, nobody has done so.

Drivers can fight back all they like when it comes to retaliation. On Monday, Larson returned to the racetrack with a damaged car to score what points he could. Although, in the closing laps of the race when Chastain was trying to run down race leader Truex, Larson blocked the No. 1 for a number of laps and pushed him behind the leader by over a second.

Did it affect the race winner outcome? With the final caution waving only a few laps later, we’ll never know. However, in the end, Chastain still finished second, and Larson finished 32nd.

It seems like a slap on the wrist, right?

Is it going to stop Chastain from making another mistake in the future? Maybe next week. But the week after that – when this is old news – we’ll likely see another driver involved in a Chastain skirmish, and we’ll start this conversation again.

Who Stood Out?

It’s a 54-race winless streak snapped for Truex, but for the first half of the 400-mile event, it was shaping up to be another Byron smackdown.

On top of winning stage one, the No. 24 team led a whopping race-high 193 laps out of 400 on the Monster Mile. During stage two, Byron faded after being passed by Chastain for the lead. Afterward, an ill-handling car kept the Hendrick Motorsports driver from retaking the lead again. He finished fourth when it was all said and done.

While it didn’t result in a win, however, it kept in tune with a common theme for 2023 – HMS is fast.

In only the first 11 races of this season, Byron has now led 579 laps in the Cup Series. That’s 154 more than he led in the entirety of 2021 and only 167 away from tying his total amount in 2022.

Last year, it was at this point in the season that Byron was experiencing a drought of top-10 finishes that stretched seven races all the way until Sonoma Raceway. That drought doesn’t appear to be happening in 2023, and the rest of the field should start to be concerned if they aren’t already.

Who Fell Flat?

Polesitter Kyle Busch picked up right where he left off last weekend on lap 1. For a small amount of the first stage on Monday, Talladega Superspeedway’s winner appeared as though he would be the man to beat for the duration of the 400-lap event.

All it took to ruin that, however, was a speeding penalty. Again. For the fourth time this season.

Unlike what had happened at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year, the No. 8 team’s problems only snowballed from there.

On the following restart, Busch resumed his race at the tail end of the field. Not a problem, right? After all, he did have the fastest car before the yellow and should have been able to work his way through the field.

Alas, on lap 36, in what was only one of four total caution-causing incidents of the whole day, the No. 8 was swept up in calamity on the frontstretch when he collided with the No. 77 of Ty Dillon.

Despite the damage, somehow the Richard Childress Racing team was able to patch the Chevrolet just enough for Rowdy to continue running competitively again. However, just as responsible as the team was for putting Busch back into a competitive position, it was equally responsible for taking him out.

On a following caution flag as the field came to pit road, the RCR team opted to stay out to try to end the stage with some track position on older tires. Not only did the call not put Busch in a better position, it also ruined his day.

Busch plummeted through the field and didn’t stop until after he was lapped and barely lost to teammate Austin Dillon for the free pass position at the end of stage one.

Busch never recovered after that and had to settle for a 21st-place finish after what appeared to be a start to a promising day.

And it was all because of yet another speeding penalty.

Better Than Last Time?

More NASCAR Cup Series races starting at noon, please.

Last year, the talk of the Dover Downs was a 3 p.m. ET. start time being the cause of the 2022 version of the Monster Mile race being postponed to Monday afternoon. Fans clamored and demanded an earlier start time for Dover’s race so perhaps NASCAR could at least get to the required distance to make the race official.

This year, they got what they wanted. Sunday’s original start time was set for 1 p.m. ET.

And it still rained.

However, NASCAR postponed the event to noon rather than later in the afternoon to try and get the 400-mile race in. That they did, and even better, a majority of the crowd even returned.

Those loyal Delaware race fans were treated with much of the same type of racing they had seen last year. Monday’s race saw a similar number of leaders as there were in 2022 with eight and only two more lead changes with 19.

Additionally, many drivers seemed to make use of the top or bottom lane when they needed to, and there was some tire wear during those long green flag runs.

However, also like last year, clean air appeared to be king. Just ask winner Truex, who only had two fresh tires after the final restart and still outran Chastain’s fresh four.

See also
Meet Ross Chastain's 2 Newest Enemies: Kyle Larson & Brennan Poole

Paint Scheme of the Race

We’ve seen many famous figures begin team co-ownership in the past, but almost always it ends with their name in association only.

Not so much for recording artist Pitbull.

The co-owner of Trackhouse Racing has made the oft appearance in his race team’s shop to give a rousing speech to his employees. Other than that, however, the rapper’s involvement with his race team was scarce.

This past week, however, he announced his new album, which will be released on July 7 this year. Its name? Trackhouse.

In addition to having one of the coolest album covers ever, which features the team cars of Chastain and Daniel Suarez, the latter’s car was adorned by a special paint scheme featuring Mr. Worldwide’s likeness.

Additionally, Suarez’s scheme features an emerald green number color and a nice contrast of green and blue. Of course, that all culminates next to Mr. 305.

Dale!

What’s Next?

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Yellow Brick Road.

The sport heads to the Kansas Speedway for its first of two visits to the Midwest mile-and-a-half circuit. Qualifying for the AdventHealth 400 will begin on Saturday, May 6, at 5:50 p.m. ET, and the field will take the green on Sunday, May 7, at 3 p.m. ET with television coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

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Dawg

I’ve defended Chastain in the past, & I still like the guy, (except for the watermelon shtick) but what happened with the 15 was pretty indefensible.
I would think that cooperation between driver & spotter, would lead to a plan for dealing with lapped traffic, as they come to it. Poole was running the low lane, Larson had the high lane. With the middle lane as the obvious choice for him to have positioned himself. Instead he ran right up behind Poole, then punted him. What did he expect to happen? He was dealing with a driver making what, his second Cup start? The correct move for a slower car is to hold it’s position, which he did.

Saying he didn’t mean for that to happen & that Poole checked up, doesn’t cut it. Chastain should have never put himself in that position to start with.

At least a couple of drivers have said that Larson holds a grudge, so the little blocking that occurred in the closing laps, might not be the last of it.

I have no problem with any driver being aggressive, that’s what they’re paid to do. But be smart about it, his wall ride is the perfect example. He’s tried some really low percentage moves lately, where the risk/reward factor was not on his side.

KyCupFan

There is a better replay out there, you can see the flames come out of the pipes of Poole’s car way too early, no way Ross could have know Poole was checking up right there. Yes I am a Ross fan and hate to see when things like this happen, but this wasn’t on him! They conveniently left that video out of this article. Or maybe they havent seen it, but it is on Twitter and linked in other articles I have read.

Kurt Smith

As a Larson fan I’m p***ed that my guy got wrecked unnecessarily and stupidly. Yes Ross pulled a stupid move. But I still think the guy is a great driver and brings some color to a sport that is desperate need of it.

Glad to see Truex get the win, he’s always been one of my favorite drivers. Just a class guy all around and he’s from Jersey like me.

Earth to NASCAR: See what kind of a crowd you can draw when you start a race at a reasonable time for East Coasters, on a MONDAY no less? Just putting that out there for you!

WJW Motorsports

And then, people realize that a track like Dover puts on a good show all over the track in person, even if the guy up front has the field covered and the TV broadcast made it look boring. Wow, I can bring in a cooler of beer with me?People here are pretty polite, respectful – patriotic actually. How refreshing. My kid just walked right up to Will Byron, who talked to him like they were old friends. This is really affordable compared to what they want to fleece me for with stick and ball sports (Personal Seat License, anyone?). They become fans. They bring their kids, who also become fans. Rinse, repeat.

Kurt Smith

Yes, it’s not a particularly complicated business model. I’ve only been to Dover once but it was great, the Burton-Kenseth battle in 2007 I think it was.

WJW Motorsports

Yes – insane track to see in person and appreciate the drop, speed carried through the corner, etc. Terrible facility though, and forget the name of the nice people who owned it forever, but just too hard to keep up I’d say. Personally, I was there to see a race and have a good time in the lot – didn’t care about anything else, but times change. We’ll see what SMI does with it now, but with Texas, Bristol (dirt) Atlanta etc.. I am not optimistic. (And let’s face it – Jr. gave them no choice on the PR front but to do something at NW).

Bill B

I was shocked when I got to the track and saw how crowded it was. I have been to a Dover race that rained out on Sunday and got ran on Monday (sometime in the late 2000’s, I believe) and it wasn’t nearly that crowded. I don’t think the start time had anything to do with it. I believe it’s more the result of only having one race per year. Hopefully this display will defer the demise of the track for a few more years. The race was definitely fun to watch live compared to TV.

I was really happy that as the race wound down three drivers that I like were the top three (Truex, Chastain and Blaney). I was fine with any of them winning.

Metricman

I don’t think Chastain can help it. Not much going on upstairs for that boy.
Melonhead strikes again.

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