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On a “mission” doesn’t cut it, and reducing it down to a “passion” is borderline criminal. The thing is though, if you watch the way NASCAR star Ross Chastain drives, there’s a ferocious hunger that some absolutely adore while others shun. While piloting the No.1 Chevrolet full-time for TrackHouse Racing, Chastain's will to win propelled him up the leaderboards with two impressive victories this season, first at the Circuit of the Americas and next at Talladega Superspeedway, but his aggressive nature behind the wheel has rubbed several drivers the wrong way. His skills are undeniable as is the list of rivals he’s accumulated along the way.
With such a razor-thin margin of error, an overly assertive racing style could literally spin you out of control. Take Chastain’s brouhaha in Richmond earlier this month, for example. Despite a commanding performance to take stage 1, illustrating the exciting pros of his style, things devolved into chaos in stage 3 after Chastain’s car made contact with Kyle Busch’s car, spinning the two cars and also affecting Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.
In context of this singular event, one crash doesn’t seem all that bad, but Chastain has a habit of being in the middle of things. Just a week earlier, Chastain slammed into Christopher Bell’s car at Michigan International Speedway, which stoked Bell's ire. And before that in May, Chastain collided with the rear of Kyle Busch’s car – an incident that knocked them both out of the race, as well as Chase Elliott, during the NASCAR All-Star Race at the Texas Motor Speedway. Chastain didn't cause that particular wreck, as Busch blew a tire, but it was a dicey moment nonetheless as Chastain briefly went airborne, though his car landed on its wheels. One can’t help but wonder if Chastain's thirst for victory played a role in him not being able to evade Busch's car and avert a crash altogether.
The ensuing drama from these crashes and the two multi-car crashes at the Quaker State 400 has led several veterans like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch to call Chastain out. Martin Truex Jr. has been on the receiving end of Chastain’s aggressive style more than once, including a pile-up in Atlanta after Chastain spun him out. The incident also ruined the day for one of Chastain’s familiar foes, Hamlin.
With seemingly no other alternative other than just accepting an incident with the No.1 TrackHouse Racing car is inevitable, Busch has resorted to infusing his responses with a healthy dose of sarcasm. In an interview after the Richmond debacle earlier this month, Busch didn’t hold back when blaming Chastain.
“We got Chastain’d this week,” Busch said. “We were his victim this week.”
AJ Allmendinger was equally inflamed after an aggressive move by Chastain at the Circuit of the Americas rammed him into Alex Bowman, dashing their hopes of victory while providing Chastain with just enough room to maneuver out of the melee unscathed and proceed to Victory Lane.
“At the end of the day, we all got to look at ourselves in the mirror,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports, referencing Chastain. “If you’re OK with it, you’re OK with it. Each person’s different.”
Judging from his interview with NBC Sports' Parker Kligerman in June at the Nashville Superspeedway, Chastain definitely owns his behavior and doesn't see it as problematic.
“When I race guys … I want to race them for the win,” Chastain said. “I don’t know how to fix it, I just know I want this so bad. And that doesn’t mean that I just get to run into people. Like, I get that. And trying to be better has been a challenge. I just want to pass people. And when they race me a certain way, then I’m going to do something about it. And they’re going to do it to me, too.”
Pressed further, Chastain double downed on defending his style.
“Like, I feel like I’m the aggressive guy, yeah. But I also get run into a lot. So, it’s fine. It’s racing. I love it. And I’m getting to do it in front of the Cup field, which is just a dream come true.”
Still, as much as Chastain may rub his fellow drivers the wrong way, there’s no denying he's an extremely talented driver who will be on NASCAR’s radar for years to come.
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