Once again, Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain turned heads on the race track. This time, it took place at Pocono Raceway as hard racing between the two drivers sent the No. 1 of Chastain hard into the wall.
The incident occurred with 18 laps remaining in the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Chastain was in the lead, but Hamlin made a move to his inside. The two drivers made contact while leaning on each other. The result was that Chastain hit the wall, bounced off into the front of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4, and then he slid into the inside wall.
This contact ended Chastain’s day and sent him to the infield care center for evaluation. Instead of fighting for the win and some playoff points, the Trackhouse Racing driver finished 34th overall. Though he moved up to 32nd after NASCAR disqualified both Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
“I think that’s been something that’s been owed to me for a few months now,” Chastain told NBC Sports reporter Parker Kligerman after getting released from the infield care center. “…I’ve been owed that and probably some more for a few months now.”
Kligerman asked if the score was settled now that contact from Hamlin had ended Chastain’s day early. The driver of the No. 1 waited a very long time before shaking his head, chuckling, and saying that he doesn’t know.
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
Hamlin Aims To Regain His Respect
The interview with Chastain was not the only time that the drivers faced questions about the contact, their history of run-ins, and the future of this new rivalry. Hamlin also had to discuss it after winning his third race of the year.
“I mean, what did you want me to do?” Hamlin asked NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider after climbing out of his stock car. “What did you expect me to do? We got position on him, and he just ran out of race track.
“We’re just going to keep racing hard until we get the respect back from these guys. It’s not just that. We’ve been wrecked four times, twice while leading, in the last 10 months, and I’m at the end of it.”
The other time wreck when he was leading took place at Martinsville Speedway in 2021. Hamlin had control of the Round of Eight elimination race, but contact from Alex Bowman sent him up the track and into the wall. Bowman went on to win the race while Hamlin finished 24th.
Hamlin made angry comments about Bowman during his post-race interview. He also provided more thoughts about the Martinsville contact and a previous wreck involving Chase Briscoe during a press conference prior to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
“At no point do I feel like he said ‘I’m going to go in there and wreck him,’” Hamlin told reporters on November 4. “I think he went in there and said ‘I’m going to run into him and whatever the result is the result is.’ To me, it’s just a lack of respect thinking that that spot means more to you than it means to me.
“I am [mad at him] because it’s a lack of situational awareness. And if the roles were reversed, there would be no question that those teams would be just as pissed off as I was. That their season was nearly taken away because of someone’s irresponsibility.”
Chastain & Hamlin Have Had Issues at Multiple Tracks
The contact at Pocono Raceway and the subsequent wreck was only the latest chapter in the story of Chastain and Hamlin. The two drivers have had public disagreements at multiple tracks during the Cup Series season.
The first instance took place at World Wide Technology Raceway. Chastain sent the No. 11 JGR Toyota hard into the outside wall and knocked Hamlin out of contention. The veteran driver then spent much of the race driving slowly in front of Chastain and making his day difficult without actually hitting him.
The issues resurfaced at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10. Hamlin was racing on the outside of Chastain with 14 laps remaining when contact between them sent the No. 11 spinning down the front stretch. Replay showed that Chastain had moved up the track and clipped the rear of Hamlin’s stock car.
Hamlin expressed frustration after the wreck relegated him to a 25th-place finish instead of a top-five. He said that he had reached his peak with Chastain, who responded by saying that his stock car was too tight and that he hadn’t lifted enough to avoid the incident.