DARLINGTON, S.C.- For the third time in the last four NASCAR Cup Series races (Talladega Superspeedway, Dover Motor Speedway, and Darlington Raceway on May 14), an incident involving Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson occurred.
This time seems to be a last straw for both Larson and Rick Hendrick, the latter of which was candid in the media center about the No. 1 car and his run-ins with the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5.
On the second-to-last restart with six laps to go, both cars were on the front row; Chastain squeezed Larson into the fence in a move that ultimately caused the No. 1 to be out of the race and the No. 5 to finish 20th with Hendrick teammate William Byron getting the win.
Tension was building in the previous restarts as Larson and Chastain were close to making contact. In all three instances — one with 92 laps left, another with 13 left and the last with six to go — neither driver left the other any room. Chastain was just the one who tried the move incorrectly, ending both of their bids for the win.
Hendrick appeared to be frustrated with Chastain post-race despite Byron getting the team’s first win at Darlington since 2012.
“It’s hard to win a championship when you have a lot of paybacks out there,” Hendrick said on Chastain. “He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies out here.”
Both Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels were pissed as well with Chastain and Chevrolet for allowing this to continue to happen.
“Make that three races now he has taken us out of,” Daniels said on the team radio. “Chevrolet, good job, good job. Three races that 1 car has taken us out.”
Does Hendrick believe Chevy should step in?
“Well, I don’t know if Chevrolet can cool it down,” Hendrick said. “I don’t know that. That’s not the way they usually operate. It’s either NASCAR or the drivers, the owners.”
As mentioned, this is the third time in the last four races that an action by Chastain has gotten Larson to be caught up in it. Talladega was the one where Chastain made the bold move inside of Noah Gragson that resulted in Larson’s wreck with Ryan Preece. Then at Dover, Chastain moved Brennan Poole, and that collected Larson as well.
“This one and Dover and just Talladega, it’s really getting old with these guys,” Hendrick said.
Hendrick was also very honest in that loyalty to Chevy will not play a role in if his drivers should pay him back.
“I don’t care if he’s driving a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars. I don’t care, and I told Chevrolet that,” Hendrick said. “I’m loyal to Chevrolet, but when somebody runs over us, then I expect my guys to hold their ground. I’m not going to ask them to yield just because of Chevrolet.”
Has this reached a point where both owners (Hendrick and Justin Marks of Trackhouse Racing) need to get involved?
“Well, I would think Justin [Marks} would have a conversation and say, you know, we’re going to,” Hendrick said “It’s going to be hard, again, if you have a lot of people wanting to pay you back, then it’s hard to win a championship that way. He’s got talent enough to do that.”
At the end of the day, Hendrick does believe it’s ultimately up to the drivers to settle the Chastain issue on the track.
“The drivers have to settle that. Whatever I say to the owners or NASCAR, NASCAR wants to get in it,” Hendrick said. “They did with Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt when he was going through all that, and they put a stop to it.”
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