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‘What a Hack’: Kyle Larson Fumes after Another Ross Chastain Incident
The Watermelon Man’s aggressive style again turned heads after a late-race incident Sunday.
NASCAR star Ross Chastain has made no apologies for his aggressive driving style, so don’t expect his latest tango on the track with Kyle Larson during Sunday’s Goodyear 400 to catalyze substantive change anytime soon.
Leading a combined total of 122 laps, the two had been trading paint all day as they dueled for an edge here and an edge there, but their bumper dust-up at the font of the pack during a restart with 14 laps left in regulation seemed to fan tempers for at least one of the wheelmen.
“He’s [Larson] going to have to hit us harder than that,” Chastain radioed to his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing crew during the caution, according to NASCAR.com. Moments later, he added, “Are we even, or does he want to drive me in the fence again?”
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Whether he meant to or not, the No. 1 Chevy driver manifested his own fate.
With just six laps left in regulation, the final restart was called on lap 288. Yung Money took the outside while the Watermelon Man chose to stay inside. The duo charged into Turn 1 like they had on the earlier restart, but this time, Chastain’s Camaro pushed high and nudged into Larson who caught the rear tire of the No. 1. In the ensuing entanglement, Hendrick Motorsports’ wheelman hooked Chastain, pushing him perpendicularly down the track before dumping him into the wall. Not one to have his feathers ruffled easily, Larson let his anger be known.
“What a hack,” Larson could be heard saying of Chastain over the radio to his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team. Cliff Daniels, Larson’s crew chief, seemed to agree, saying over the team’s radio, “Make that three races he’s taken us out of now, Chevrolet. Good job.”
In his post-race interview about the incident with Larson, Chastain, who also got tangled up with Martin Truex Jr. earlier in the day, gave his side of the story.
“We all go race, and I fully committed into [Turn] one and wanted to squeeze him [Larson] up,” Chastain revealed. “Didn’t want to turn myself across his nose, for sure. So, not how I wanted to be standing here talking [to] you out here and another incredible day for Trackhouse.”
Larson abstained from making any incendiary post-race comments. Instead, team owner Rick Hendrick and vice chairman Jeff Gordon faced a barrage of questions from reporters, eager to inquire about the No. 5’s late-race altercation with Chastain, and the championship-winning owner did not hold back his true feelings about Chastain.
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“He doesn’t have to be that aggressive,” explained Hendrick after driver William Byron delivered the organization a victory in the event. “You just don’t run people up in the fence. He’s going to make a lot of enemies, and it’s hard to win a championship when you have a lot of paybacks out there.”
“He’s got so much talent,” Hendrick continued. “If he would just calm down. He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies. ... It’s really getting old with these guys.”
The four-time Cup Series champion Gordon commented on how Larson is cut from a different cloth of racer than Chastain.
“Some people are really comfortable pushing and shoving and have no issues spinning guys or putting them in the fence,” stated Gordon. “Kyle is a guy that you have a lot of respect for because of the way he races, but he knows when to be aggressive, too. I think it depends what’s on the line. Kyle is the kind of guy that if he leans on somebody, he’s going to make sure both of you come out the other end. That’s his kind of responsibility and the way he carries himself.”
“I don’t anticipate Kyle changing the way that he races guys, knowing Kyle the way I do.”
When a reporter pressed Hendrick about the two wheelman both being Chevrolet drivers, Hendrick interrupted, revealing that the alliance from the car manufacturer’s sponsorship only goes so far.
“I don’t care if he drives a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars,” Hendrick noted. “I don’t care, and I told Chevrolet that. You wreck us, and you’re gonna get it back, and if you don’t do it, they’ll run all over you. 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.”
The incident railroaded both drivers’ days, relegating Chastain to an abysmal 29th-place finish while Larson crawled to 20th place. Next up for the two Chevrolet drivers is the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway May 21.