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Denny Hamlin’s comments about incident with Ross Chastain on NASCAR’s ‘radar’

Marty Snider, Jeff Burton, and Parker Kligerman dissect everything that transpired during the late NASCAR Cup Series restarts at Phoenix Raceway that led to William Byron's win.

NASCAR will look into the actions and comments of Denny Hamlin in regards to his contact with Ross Chastain on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday that “without a doubt it’s on our radar,” in an interview on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Sawyer said he was made aware of Hamlin’s comments Monday night and series officials planned to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.

Hamlin forced Chastain into the wall as they raced for position coming to the checkered flag at Phoenix. Hamlin said on his podcast “Actions Detrimental” that he intended to do that.

Section 4.4.B of the Cup Rule Book states that a competitor can be fined 25-50 points and/or fined $50,000-$100,000 for a series of violations that includes “Wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.”

Hamlin had only two fresh tires compared to many others behind him on four fresher tires, including Chastain. Hamlin said his car didn’t handle well going into Turn 1 and “at that point I knew I was screwed. I was about to go backwards. I had all the four-tire cars on my (rear). ... My crew chief told me there were 18 cars on the lead lap. At that point, I said, ‘Alright, I’m probably running sixth or seventh, I’m about to get passed by everyone behind me on fresh tires. I’m about to finish in the mid-teens. I said, ‘You’re (in reference to Chastain) coming with me buddy.’

“It wasn’t a mistake. No, it wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go, and I said he’s coming with me. It’s been interesting because I hear people say this is for last year or this year. I got wrecked at the Clash. I don’t know that Ross sees it that way. I think he’s still curious about what I thought about the Clash. I don’t know why he wonders what I thought about the Clash.

“I said for awhile you’ve got to do something to get these guys’ attention, whatever. I’ve said it. I think that Ross doesn’t like it when I speak his name in the media and when I have this microphone. I told him I have a microphone and I’m going to call it like I see it. Until you get a microphone, you can then say whatever you want about me. The fact is while I’m sitting here talking, I’m going to call things the way I see it.

“Sometimes I’m going to have to call myself out. I’m the (expletive) that lost as many spots as he did. At the time I said I’m going to finish (expletive) anyway, I’m just going to make sure he finishes (expletive) right with me.

“It’s difficult because at times people want me to react right away. I don’t want to involve any more cars. I told you guys privately, my friends, it’s difficult to be in a position where you get back at a person and not involve an innocent bystander. It’s really hard to do. Then you’ve got other people pissed at you because you’re doing something that affected their race when they had nothing to do with it. I never wanted to do that. Pocono, unfortunately, someone got caught up in that when Ross bounced back off the wall.

“Here, I saw that we were the only people up top, so I said I’m going to send him into the fence and door him. My dumb (expletive) got caught up in it because when I got pinned, he was between me and the wall, so I got all screwed up and I lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid. At the time, I’m like I’m going to finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car is just plowing here, I’m about to get ate up by all these new tires. I just was like if I’m going to give this guy a hard time, it’s just going to be then.

“So he bounced off the wall. My ideal situation was I was just going to knock him in the fence a little bit and keep going.”

HamlinChastain at Phoenix

Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain talk after the race at Phoenix on March 12, 2023, after they made contact on the last lap. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Hamlin also went on to say on his podcast:

“He actually got the jump, he downshifted quicker. He brake-checked me a few times. You saw that from the (on-board camera) down the backstretch he hit the brakes a couple of times. I wasn’t letting off at all. It didn’t matter to me. After the brake-checks, I went into the next corner and tried. I’ll be honest with you ... (Chastain) is hard to spin. When he knows it’s coming, he’s the hardest guy to wreck on the planet.

“I wanted to get back to racing, honestly, with him, and I think that’s a lot of the conversation we had after the race. He came up to me and says ‘I guess I deserved it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I’m not going to sit on this podcast and ever lie to you guys and say this was is an accident when it’s not. It wasn’t an accident. I meant to put him in the fence, but I didn’t mean to screw my team in the process. ... At the time, when you’re seeing red, that’s all that really matters. I saw an opportunity to not involve anyone else. I was about to to go to the back and I wanted to take him with me.

“We talked and I think we’re in a better place where I think we’re willing to put the past behind and I think that we’re going to judge each other from this point forward. I think that’s the fairest way to do it.”

Hamlin and Chastain have had several conflicts since last season.

Among the most notable was at World Wide Technology Raceway last June when Chastain’s contact wrecked Hamlin. Later in the race, Hamlin showed his displeasure by driving Chastain down onto the apron. Chastain’s contact wrecked Hamlin at Atlanta last July. Hamlin later impeded Chastain. Hamlin didn’t give Chastain any room at Pocono in taking the lead and Chastain hit the wall and wrecked. Chastain’s contact turned Hamlin in the Clash at the Coliseum in February.