RACING

Endless List of Ross Chastain’s NASCAR Enemies

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Did you notice? … Ross Chastain continues to rack up enemies ahead of the NASCAR playoffs?

Add Kyle Busch to the refresh list after Chastain’s #1 Chevy made contact with Busch’s #18 Toyota, sparking a multi-car wreck on Sunday’s (Aug. 14) final stage at Richmond Raceway.

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The incident, from my perspective, sounded like one of those “racing deals”. Busch appeared to go down just as Chastain drifted, bringing them both close and spinning No. 18. Chastain was left with the worst, limping to 18th after winning stage one, while Busch was able to fight his way back into the top 10 (ninth).

But with the way the pilots see Chastain at this point, whether it’s really his fault doesn’t matter much anymore. Any form of contact produces a guilty verdict before proving one’s innocence.

“We have Chastain’d this week,” Busch said after the race. “We were his victim this week.”

How many drivers has Ross ticked so far? It’s such a long list that it was worth compiling it before the playoffs start. After four consecutive races outside the top 10, the simple reading shows the growing mountain that Chastain and his team must climb, emotionally and on the circuit, in order to re-emerge as top-tier title contenders.

LIST OF ROSS CHASTAIN’S ENEMIES

Current NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Drivers

Chase Elliot: The current point leader has had two major incidents with Chastain. The one everyone remembers is at World Wide Technology Raceway in June, where Chastain slipped into the #9 car and spun it around.

“I am [expletive] on it,” Elliott said after the incident. “He knocked me down walking into [turn] 3 and it crushed me again.

Elliott responded with a contact later that pushed Chastain out of the groove, but didn’t get him out. The drama happened less than a month after one of the hardest crashes of the season, when Chastain crashed into Kyle Busch’s injured car during the All-Star Race. The No. 1 car was lifted into the air, accelerated as if fired from a cannon and annihilated Elliott, as all three drivers suffered heavy blows.

Could Chastain have avoided it? “I guessed he was gone and froze,” he said.

ryan blaney: The second pointer (but last on the playoff grid) started with Chastain in Richmond in April. The duo were battling for sixth place when Chastain put the bumper on the #12 Ford to get out of it.

“He just decided to send me,” Blaney said after the race. “So on the next restart I sent him. Now we’re even, I guess.

Of all the riders on this list, this is probably the lowest sustain. But with all the drama surrounding Chastain, it’s hard to see Blaney suddenly giving her a little more slack.

Kyle Larson: Larson got frustrated with Chastain at Sonoma Raceway in June, using his bumper when the #1 car slid aggressively past him. But perhaps the most telling moment between them came two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway, when Observer Larson suggested the two Chevrolet drivers work together to battle for the lead.

Larson just laughed.

“Ross doesn’t work with anyone,” he said. “Funny.”

The defending NASCAR 2021 champion being this Beware with someone who is a pseudo-teammate? This does not bode well for another month.

Christopher Bell: Bell made contact with Chastain in Michigan, putting them both out of contention to win. Bell said Front stretch this weekend in Richmond, he takes the majority of the blame but felt ‘it wasn’t 100% on me’.

When we speak with NASCAR.com, Bell went further, saying, “I’ve been put in the exact same position on another side, probably 30, 40, maybe 50 times this year and, you know, lifted. So I made a mistake, but [Chastain] had the ability to lift us up and cut us both a break, and he didn’t and we were shipwrecked.

Doesn’t sound like someone going to lunch with Chastain soon. In fact, the wreckage almost feels like a case of his own frustration with overflowing Chastain.

Kyle Busch: Most recent example? See above. But Busch has been mad at Chastain ever since the Atlanta Motor Speedway event a year ago where he helped block then-Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kurt Busch. At the time, Busch called him a “selling point” (I think you can relate) because the decision showed him “what kind of driver he is.”

Add in Busch’s own stressors (namely, who he’ll be racing for in 2023) and that leaves him with someone Chastain must avoid at all costs.

Denny Hamlin: He is the only driver that everyone knows in this list without looking. Make your choice: Gateway. Atlanta. Revenge in Pocono (but not total revenge). If there are two people destined to meet in the playoffs, these are them.

Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe: The two drivers have had no contact with Chastain, but have fought tooth and nail in several races this season. The trio fought hard for a victory in March, a race that seems to have taken place decades before Briscoe took his first career win at Phoenix Raceway.

Then, just two weeks ago, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chastain snuck past Reddick to take the lead in a green-and-white checkered finish. Similar to Briscoe last year, even though he knew a penalty was coming, the #1 driver held Reddick back at the finish. The pair ran cleanly but the contact could have cost Reddick the win; some might say the run was unnecessary, with Chastain making an illegal move.

Austin Cindric: Cindric is probably the most neutral of all on this list. But Chastain’s offer on the Indy road course held up the No. 2 Ford and cost him any chance of going after Reddick for the win.

In case you’re counting at home, that’s over 50% of the current playoff field. Always on Chastain’s Good Side: Teammate Daniel Suarez (You hope?). Former IRGC teammate Kurt Busch also appears to remain on good terms. Also staying out of trouble were Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman, fellow Chevrolet drivers who worked side-by-side with Chastain. Bowman even went so far as to publicly acknowledge his friendship with Chastain in March, though he added, “He’s a pain in the ass to run around with, but I tell him that all the time.”

Another interesting ally is Joey Logano, who voiced his support for Chastain’s decision to use the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course access road. A streaky Kevin Harvick is also a fan, avoiding conflict while saying Chastain’s style of “that I don’t care what happens and if you don’t like it, sorry – having that edge is something that will make him popular because of his way of running.

Unfortunately, that popularity doesn’t extend to its competitors, a topic we’ve covered at length in this space. We’ll find out shortly how important being a lone wolf on (and off) the racetrack will be.

Others

Austin Dillon: Dillon expressed his anger after a shipwreck in Atlanta in July took his No. 3 out of the race. In a difficult year for Dillon’s team, Atlanta is one of the few races where he could have been a serious contender for victory.

During this incident, it was actually Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. who made contact. But the No 3 couldn’t avoid the mess, leading Dillon to say: ‘We were just a victim of Ross Chastain once again. That was a pretty good lick there […] when you have guys like him destroying half the pitch, you might as well take a different strategy sometimes.

AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger was the recipient of Chastain’s pinball-like maneuver to claim his first Cup Series win at Circuit of the Americas in March.

“At the end of the day,” Allmendinger said after that one, “We all have to look in the mirror. If you’re okay with that, you’re okay with that. Every person is different.

Aric Almirola: Yes, even mild-mannered Almirola lost his temper with Chastain. “He’s running over his head” was the gist of a conversation with Yahoo! Sports after the veteran got started with Chastain in Atlanta last month.

Martin Truex Jr.: The usually cold-tempered Truex was downright livid with Chastain after wrecking on the final lap at Dover Motor Speedway in May. This is just one of three incidents between the two. The last was in Atlanta in July, which ended with a warning from the 2017 Cup champion.

“He makes a bunch of enemies,” Truex said on SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio. “People tend to remember those things when the playoffs come around and things heat up, so we’ll see how things play out.”

Did you notice? … Quick shots before taking off…

  • Chase Elliott has now gone over a year without winning a road race. Kyle Larson hasn’t won since Auto Club Speedway in February. Together they have won the last three races at Watkins Glen International. Don’t think for a second that locking in a playoff spot is ruining their motivation to continue that streak.
  • If you had told AJ Allmendinger in 2014 that, eight years after his first WGI Cup victory, he would undoubtedly have a better turned to win the race with a team where he is fighting for a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, he would have laughed in your face. It’s crazy the twists and turns that sometimes occur throughout a pilot’s career.
  • It’s a big moment for NASCAR this weekend to put Kimi Raikkonen in a top-level race car with the Formula 1 craze sweeping the country. But they shouldn’t stop there. What about Daniel Ricciardo if he somehow ends up sidelined at McLaren? What about a retired Sebastian Vettel, in a position to have some fun after retiring from F1 at the end of 2022? As always, these crossovers can only benefit both parties in a racing world that should work together to capitalize on its growing popularity.

Follow @NASCARBowls


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