One of the biggest storylines heading into the playoffs is Ross Chastain and whether other NASCAR drivers will let him reach the championship four. Defending champion Kyle Larson knows that Chastain has plenty of speed, but he also has a sizable list of on-track rivals.
Larson provided his thoughts ahead of the Watkins Glen race weekend. He explained that Chastain has used his aggressiveness to secure some wins and strong finishes, but he has also rubbed some drivers the wrong way. There is a possibility that this could lead to Chastain getting payback, but it may not necessarily disrupt his playoff run.
“Ross has like a two-page list of guys, it seems like,” Larson said, video courtesy of NASCAR Media. “I know… yeah, it’s the Cup Series. I feel like we’ve seen it in the past. People will make life pretty tough on you, but he’s done a really good job of even when he does get into moments where he has issues with other drivers in the race, he still recovers from it really well.”
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Larson Compared Chastain to a Former Cup Series Champion
Chastain is far from the only driver to use aggressive moves to fight for wins and top-10 finishes. There have been numerous others that have used this method throughout NASCAR’s history. He is just the latest.
To this point, Larson actually compared Chastain to a fellow Cup Series champion. He said that the Trackhouse Racing driver has some similarities to a young Brad Keselowski, who had notable run-ins with multiple competitors.
“I would say, like, Brad and Ross remind me a lot of each other,” Larson added. “I didn’t get to race with Brad, obviously, early in his career, but I feel like he had a lot of guys not enjoying racing with him early on in his career. And he had to kind of figure that out and now I don’t picture Brad as being an aggressive type driver at all.”
Keselowski had his fair share of run-ins early in his career. The rivalry with Carl Edwards was the most notable, but he also got in a fight with Jeff Gordon after receiving a shove from Kevin Harvick. The list also includes some incidents with Kyle Busch.
The recent seasons have featured fewer incidents between Keselowski and his fellow drivers. There were some angry comments after the 2022 Daytona 500 due to the veteran’s pushes on the track, but those are tame compared to earlier seasons of his career.
Larson Had His Own ‘Rivalry’ in 2021
Larson is someone that had his own experience with a rivalry during the playoffs, albeit a much quieter one. He and Christopher Bell got together during the 2021 race at Watkins Glen International, which sent the No. 20 spinning.
The on-track incident was minor enough. Though it knocked Bell out of contention for the win. What really created the “feud” were some comments by the two NASCAR drivers.
Larson first appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the incident. He made some strong comments and said that Bell “was not willing to discuss” the wreck at Watkins Glen International.
“I reached out and tried, but I guess he’s not willing to talk to me, which is kind of whatever,” Larson said. “I think any adult in the field would at least have a conversation with you, but he doesn’t care to. So, we’ll move on from it and if he wants to get me back, that’s fine. Whatever. I’m not going to worry about it. If it makes him sleep better at night to ignore me and want to crash me or whatever, so be it.”
Bell fired back prior to the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He met with media members and said that Larson had only sent him a text message after their contact on the track.
“On-track incident — whatever. Him crying to the media that I didn’t reply to his ‘sorry’ text message — like, come on,” Bell told media members. “The on-track incident? No, it did not cross the line. Him going to the media, complaining that I did not respond. Yes, I would say that crossed the line.
“How many times have I sent an apology call, first off, or a text message and not got a reply? Probably more times than I got a reply,” Bell continued. “I didn’t think it was a big deal at all.”
There were questions after these two interviews about whether there would be another on-track incident. Nothing ultimately happened as the two drivers just raced each other cleanly throughout the summer and into the playoffs.