MADISON, Ill. – Ross Chastain shook his head and tried to figure out what he had done on Sunday.
One of the sport’s winningest drivers this season left World Wide Technology Raceway humble. His aggressive driving angered Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin, leading them both to retaliate.
“I rolled over my head so many times,” Chastain told NBC Sports as he returned to the garage after finishing eighth. “It’s one thing to do it once, but I kept going after guys.
“I can’t believe I’m coming back now that I’ve done it many times, and I’ve had time to stop and think carefully. It would turn green, and I would do it again. I’ve had so much tried to be better.
“Words won’t fix it. Apologies won’t fix it. Just awful.
#NASCAR … I spoke with@RossChastainafter the race. He said: “I’ve rolled over my head so many times…” pic.twitter.com/PHToVm7HXw
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) June 5, 2022
Chastain hit Hamlin’s car from the rear and sent it into the wall as they raced for sixth place on lap 64. Hamlin lost laps for repairs and was not a factor the rest of the race, finishing 11 laps in 34th.
“There doesn’t seem to be any sense of conscience out there that says maybe I’m a little bit aggressive,” Hamlin told reporters of Chastain. “It’s his decision to make. He can make all the decisions he wants, honestly.
“He’s his own guy, and he’s been very good at what he does. Ultimately, this sport is self-policing and usually, when you least expect it – and that means the most – it comes back.
Denny Hamlin said when he pays back Ross Chastain it will be meaningful and when he least expects it, you have to “fence these guys” to get their attention.
More of what Hamlin said about Chastain after Gateway: pic.twitter.com/B0SCkCct6r
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 5, 2022
About 15 laps after the incident, Chastain ran into Hamlin. Delivering a message, Hamlin drove Chastain to the apron on the backstretch before Chastain passed.
Hamlin then again prevented Chastain. It got to the point that NASCAR asked the team to tell Hamlin he made his point.
Chastain, however, was not done bothering drivers.
He got stuck between Austin Dillon and Elliott on a restart. Chastain hit Elliott at left-back, spinning Elliott and bringing out the caution on lap 103 of the 245-lap race.
Elliott told his team radio, “What is he doing? He smashed me to get into (Turn) 3, then smashed me again.
On the next restart, Elliott and Hamlin were in the back of the field with Chastain. Elliott slammed into Chastain, knocking him into the wall. As Chastain was backing up the track, Hamlin walked past and got him on the climb.
Change my tires pic.twitter.com/XMXxIOtoqr
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) June 6, 2022
While Chastain was tough on himself, Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks defended his driver, who has won two Cup races this year.
“Honestly, I don’t think there was a single thing Ross Chastain did wrong today, not a single thing,” Marks told NBC Sports. “It’s a very, very competitive sport and you fight for every inch.
“The thing is, he’s a newcomer to the top five and the top five guys don’t like that there’s a newcomer. I’m super, super proud of him. He is very aggressive. That’s what it takes to win races, and ultimately it will lead him to where he’s a NASCAR champion – his aggressiveness matches his talent.
I can’t wait https://t.co/mvgttjy476
— Justin Marks (@JustinMarksTH) June 6, 2022
I mean, you can keep eating if you want. Not sure this helps solve the ending.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) June 6, 2022
While Chastain runs aggressively, he also tried to overpower him at times. Kevin Harvick approached him on pit road after the June 27 Pocono race last year and said “if you back it up a notch,” Chastain could have made it into the top five. Instead, Chastain finished 26th after contact with Christopher Bell.
Chastain trains with ex-pilot Josh Wise, who also works with Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick, among others. Wise worked with Chastain to know when to be aggressive and when to back off.
One of Wise’s tactics last year was to stop Chastain from saying the word “take.”
“You don’t have to use that word anymore, and you’re not going to do that on the track,” Chastain told Wise last year.
He didn’t use that word Sunday after the race. Instead, he said something else.
“I owe half the pitch an apology,” Chastain said. “Words won’t be enough to fix it, so I’ll have to pay it on the track. I almost did today and I deserve everything they do.