NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller addressed other drivers’ issues with Ross Chastain during a Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He said that the sanctioning body would monitor the situation and step in if necessary to prevent any drivers’ feuds with Chastain from escalating further.
At Gateway, competition officials oversaw as not one, but two drivers retaliated against Chastain after on-track incidents. Denny Hamlin, who got sent into the Turn 2 wall off Chastain’s bumper, repeatedly blocked and crowded Chastain as he came up on Hamlin’s disabled car throughout the remainder of the event.
Chase Elliott, meanwhile, issued a retaliatory shove to Chastain on the restart after a caution for a spin by Elliott caused by contact from Chastain.
While Miller admitted that NASCAR officials were “annoyed” by some of what occurred — Hamlin was issued a warning by race control on Sunday and told he’d made his point — he stressed that the sanctioning body had to let the drivers handle the issue on their own, considering that any contact did not rise beyond acceptable levels.
“They tried to make life miserable for Ross, we all witnessed that, but at least we didn’t see a blatant takeout or anything like that,” Miller said. “It was obvious from Ross’ post-race comments that he’s made some mistakes out there and wants to make it right. But it’s kind of up to those guys to sort it out and how it moves forward from there.”
Miller also shared that NASCAR may meet with the drivers involved this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, but noted they would only do so if they felt it was necessary to intercede.
As of Tuesday, Miller said that NASCAR hadn’t spoken to any of the drivers involved.
“It’s usually better to kind of let things die down and speak to them before we hit the track again rather than do it at the racetrack. We’ll do that if absolutely necessary,” Miller said. “But in this situation where there was no sort of blatant takeout and retaliation, best to kind of let that calm down a bit and then have a word with them later.”
Although Ross Chastain’s aggressive driving style has helped him go from overachieving in lesser equipment to a breakout star and Cup Series contender, it has not made him popular with his competitors. Following their run-in at Gateway, Hamlin insinuated post-race that he would eventually make sure he got even with Chastain.
“You only want to pay back when it counts,” Hamlin said, per Kelly Crandall of RACER. “Once he got done taking out the No. 9 after me, he (Chastain) wasn’t in contention to win anymore. So — I’ve said many times — you’re going to have to fence these guys hard just to kind of get their attention, but it’s going to have to be meaningful. It’s going to be on a meaningful day.”
Chastain, meanwhile, acknowledged that his driving at Gateway was not acceptable, while at the same time accepting that he would likely have to pay for it on the racetrack.
“Words aren’t gonna fix it, so I’ll have to pay for it on the track. Almost did today,” Chastain said in his post-race interview with Fox Sports. “And I deserve everything that they do — I can’t believe that I continue to make the same mistakes and overdrive the corners and drive into guys.”