Long Pond, Pennsylvania— During Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, the last caution had already begun to form.
This has been simmering for at least a month according to Ross Chastain.
On a Lap 143 restart, Denny Hamlin lined up to Chastain’s left, both in the front row as the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400’s likely final restart approached. At the exit of Turn 1, Hamlin – a victim of previous Chastain contact — washed high and shoved Chastain into the outside wall, their furious recent history boiling over.
Harvick’s front end was severely damaged after Chastain spun down the Long Pond Straightaway.
In June, at Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway, the Hamlin-Chastain rivalry reached boiling point when Chastain sent Hamlin into the outside wall. Chastain then spun Hamlin out of Turn 4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway four races later.
At Pocono on Sunday, Chastain was in a tight battle for the lead and wasn’t startled when he crashed and had to be helped by medics.
Chastain laughed and said, “No, I knew that one coming.” It’s possible that if I had raced better two months earlier, I would have had plenty of room off Turn 1.” The last few months have shown me that, and it’s now too late to do anything about it, so he paid it back and continued on to Indianapolis.”
In his post-race interview at Gateway, Chastain was self-deprecating, and he continued in that vein on Sunday.
‘He’s certainly a potential Hall of Famer in this sport,’ Chastain said of Hamlin. ‘Actions speak louder than words. We all knew what he owed me, and he paid it today.
It was only a matter of time until he chose to return it because he had known for a while that I had over the line and damaged him.
As a result of post-race inspection, Hamlin came in first, but was disqualified. When he collided with the driver of the No. 11 Toyota, he didn’t want to talk about it.
“Who?” Hamlin inquired.
Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s crew chief, is in the same boat.
“Which vehicle do you refer to?” How do I know which one to choose?” Gabehart inquired. What’s the matter? What on earth are you referring to? “I’m not familiar with that.”
After the post-race inspection, Chastain was given credit for 32nd place while Hamlin was demoted to 35th place for his efforts.