In just over one season with Trackhouse Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Ross Chastain has already established himself as one of the sport’s biggest stars.
He’s also established himself as one of its most polarizing characters.
Since taking over the No. 1 car, it seems that someone has taken issue with Chastain every few races. And with Kyle Larson blocking him in the closing laps at Dover Speedway and Noah Gragson confronting him on pit road after the race at Kansas Speedway, Chastain’s reputation in the garage area doesn’t seem to be improving.
Of course, drivers won’t see eye-to-eye on a variety of issues, and Chastain has taken blame for incidents that he believes to be of his own making. But whether warranted or not, Chastain has clashed with a quarter of the garage area in near record time.
This list does not include drivers getting angry at Chastain over hard racing (for example, Kyle Busch was frustrated with him at Kansas, but there was never a crash between the two). In order to make it on the list, a driver had to be involved in a collision with Chastain and express displeasure over it.
To my count, there have been 13 incidents (excluding retaliations) in 11 races between nine drivers in his 47 races with the team.
Circuit of the Americas: vs. AJ Allmendinger
Synopsis: Allmendinger bumps Chastain to take the lead on the last lap. Chastain later responds with an aggressive bump that spins Allmendinger after the No. 16 car bounced off of Alex Bowman.
Dover Motor Speedway: vs. Martin Truex Jr.
Synopsis: While racing for third on the final lap, Chastain quickly shuts the door on Truex out of turn 2. Truex then loses control and spins out on the backstretch, finishing 12th.
Synopsis: Chastain gets into the back of Hamlin while racing in the top 10, and the damage cripples Hamlin’s car. In a later incident, Chastain gets into the back of Elliott, spinning him out.
Retaliation: Hamlin and his crippled car held up Chastain on numerous occasions when the No. 1 car came up to lap him. And, on the restart after his spin, Elliott bumped Chastain well out of the groove into turn 1.
Atlanta Motor Speedway (July): vs. Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin
Synopsis: Chastain gets into the back of Truex and spins him out. The contact ultimately causes the Big One that collects at least half a dozen cars. In the closing laps of the race, Chastain gets into the back of another car, this time Hamlin, spinning him out.
Pocono Raceway: vs. Denny Hamlin
Retaliation: While racing for the lead on a late restart, Hamlin squeezes Chastain out of turn 1, forcing him to lift or crash. Chastain chose the latter.
Michigan International Speedway: vs. Christopher Bell
Synopsis: While racing in the top five, Bell makes a mistake by trying to block Chastain on the straightaway. Chastain doesn’t lift, and both drivers crash.
Richmond Raceway (August): vs. Kyle Busch
Synopsis: Chastain washes up the track and spins Busch in turn 4. Chastain is then turned around by a car behind him.
Phoenix Raceway (November): vs. Chase Elliott
Synopsis: On a mid-race restart, Elliott turns left in an effort to block Chastain. Chastain held his line and didn’t lift, causing Elliott to crash out of title contention.
Phoenix (March): vs. Denny Hamlin
Retaliation: On an overtime restart, Hamlin loses spots and admits to putting Chastain in the wall alongside him. Hamlin finishes 23rd, Chastain 24th.
Richmond (April): vs. Christopher Bell
Synopsis: Chastain putting Bell three-wide on a restart causes Bell to spin William Byron in turn 1.
Notes: This incident (where Bell initially blamed Chastain before backtracking and taking responsibility) set off a series of memes about how everything was Chastain’s fault.
Talladega Superspeedway (April): vs. Noah Gragson:
Synopsis: On an overtime restart, Chastain moves Gragson out of the groove and sticks his nose underneath him. Gragson tries to block Chastain and crashes out of the race.
Dover: vs. Kyle Larson and Brennan Poole
Synopsis: Chastain gets in the back of Poole while lapping him early in the race. Poole spins and collects Larson, who was running fifth.
Retaliation: With the laps winding down, Larson’s wounded car blocks Chastain for two laps as the latter tries to run down Truex for the lead.
Kansas (May): vs. Noah Gragson
Synopsis: Chastain crowds Gragson out of turn 4 but leaves him one lane. There is no contact between the two, and Gragson hits the turn 4 wall after running out of space.
Retaliation: Gragson confronts Chastain on pit road, and the two have to be separated after a fight breaks out.
When someone says that an incident happens with Chastain every couple weeks, it’s not an exaggeration.
But at the same time, how many of these incidents was Chastain at fault for? How many were from the other drivers seeing things differently?
How many took anger because of Chastain’s reputation alone?
After all, the ‘It’s Ross’ fault’ memes didn’t go viral without a purpose.
Thirteen incidents in just over a year is a huge number, but all of them are open to interpretation.
But when it comes to his fellow drivers, Chastain has a long way to go before his reputation — and drivers taking issue with him because of his reputation — climbs from the nadir it’s currently at.
Hamlin became Kansas’ all-time Cup winner with his fourth victory.
- Prior to Sunday, five drivers were in a tie with three Kansas wins: Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin scored his 49th Cup victory, which tied him with Tony Stewart on the all-time win list.
- With one more win, Hamlin would become the 15th driver to score 50 Cup wins.
- With a 50th win, Hamlin would tie Junior Johnson as the winningest driver to not win a Cup championship.
In 23 seasons of operation, Sunday marked the first Cup race in Kansas’ history that featured a last-lap pass.
- A last-lap pass at Kansas was almost achieved in May 2018: Harvick ran down Truex with fresher tires and passed him right before taking the white flag.
Sunday’s 37 lead changes marked a record for a Cup race at Kansas.
- The previous high was 26, set all the way back in 2009.
- The race also marked the most lead changes in a 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile track; the previous high was 28 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2007.
Kyle Larson has now been involved in an accident or had a mechanical failure in eight of the 12 races this season.
- Las Vegas, Phoenix Raceway and his wins at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway have been the only clean races for the No. 5 team this season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has eight top-15 finishes in the first 12 races this season.
- He had eight top-15 finishes during the entire 2022 season.
Having missed two races due to injury, Bowman currently sits 15th in points.
- If he wasn’t penalized 60 points at Richmond, he would currently sit 10th.
While we’re on the topic of angry drivers, here’s the finish of last year’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway:
Is any team or manufacturer the favorite heading into next Sunday (May 14)?
- Last year’s Goodyear 400 saw an even mix of teams out front. Winner Logano led 107 laps, but Hamlin (42), Larson (30), Truex (28), Chastain (26), Byron (24) and Kyle Busch (19) all took turns out front. All three manufacturers had cars with race-winning speed.
- Last year’s Southern 500 in September was different. The race was dominated by Joe Gibbs Racing, as Truex and Busch combined to lead 203 of the 367 laps. However, both cars retired with mechanical failures late in the race while leading. Byron was one of the fastest cars of the race behind the two.
With the above information and the current trends of the 2023 season, Darlington will likely be another battle of Hendrick Motorsports vs JGR. Chastain and Logano might show up to play as well.
Hamlin leads the way with four wins at Darlington. Harvick is right behind him with three.
- Truex and Erik Jones each have two, while Busch, Logano and Brad Keselowski each have one. Only seven drivers competing this weekend have conquered the Lady in Black.
Busch (a one-time winner) leads the way among active drivers with 899 laps led at Darlington. Larson has the most laps led (686) among drivers that haven’t won at the track.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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