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Ross Chastain Weighs In on Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin's Pocono Dustup

The Watermelon Man’s cagey response on how to deal with on-track issues gives an insight into how he approaches racing.

By Andrew Woodin
Ross Chastain seen during a racde

Love him or hate him, Ross Chastain is one of the most dynamic and entertaining figures in NASCAR. Besides his undeniable talent behind the wheel, his fearlessness in pursuit of glory harkens back to some of the league’s most notorious firebrands, such as Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Tony Stewart and even the Man in Black, Dale Earnhardt. The wheelman with humble Florida farming beginnings will gladly remind anyone that he can throw a right cross nearly as well as he can trade paint because, when it comes to playing the villain of the Cup Series, sorry Denny Hamlin, nobody embraces the role quite like the Watermelon Man.  

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That’s why it was a little surprising that Chastain wasn't involved in one of the current Cup Series season's most controversial on-track dustup – the one between Hamlin and Kyle Larson at Pocono where Hamlin essentially forced Larson into the wall, securing his second win of the season but pushing Larson all the way down to 20th. It was Hamlin's 50th career victory and record-setting seventh at the Tricky Triangle.

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The take-no-prisoners maneuver was the talk of the track all week long ahead of Richmond Sunday, and NASCAR fans were surely curious to hear the circuit's resident bad boy offer up his take on the matter. 

Luckily, Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports caught up with a handful of drivers, including Chastain, whose insights provided a glimpse into how his racing mind works. 

“[The incident between Hamlin and Larson] didn’t change anything for me last week, so I can’t really say,” Chastain told Pockrass in the video. “Going forward, we all make our decisions lap by lap.”

Split image of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson

Pressed about whether there’s a way for a driver on the outside of the track to defend against a move like Hamlin’s, where he had inside positioning against Larson, Chastain’s response was a bit opaque yet offered fans a chance to read between the lines.

“Every time we go into the corner, there are decisions we make,” offered Chastain. “There are choices [we make]. Just kind of know who you are racing against and what the odds are and, if this still happens, and the odds were low, okay, you lost that one. There is something that you can do in every corner at every lap at every race.”

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While at first glance, his response seems innocuous enough, you don't have to squint to hard to read the subtext: in every corner, there's a chance to inflict your will on a race, whether that's maneuvering for a win or exacting payback on someone who may have wrecked you in the past.

That said, payback doesn’t always have to be flashy either. As Ryan Blaney pointed out to Pockross, the modern day “aero games” drivers are capable of waging against one another with NASCAR’s latest iteration of the Next Gen car means that vehicles don’t even have to touch for a wheelman to disrupt another driver – get him tight and force him into making a mistake.

While Chastain’s history suggests he favors a more direct route for, his comments show he's savvy to the wide range of possibilities to make your mark on race day.