DARLINGTON, S.C. — Car owner Rick Hendrick issued a warning to Ross Chastain after Kyle Larson was wrecked for the third time in the last four races due to Chastain’s actions.
“I don’t care if he’s driving a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars,” Hendrick said of Chastain, who drives a Chevy for Trackhouse Racing. “I don’t care. I’ve told Chevrolet that. If you wreck us, you’re going to get it back. If you don’t do it, they’ll run all over you.
“I’m loyal to Chevrolet, but when somebody runs over us, then I expect my guys to hold their ground. I’m not going to ask them to yield just because of Chevrolet.”
Hendrick wasn’t done.
“He doesn’t have to be that aggressive,” Hendrick said of Chastain. “I guess at this point in the race maybe you’re super aggressive, but you just don’t run people up in the fence. He’s going to make a lot of enemies. It’s hard to win a championship when you’ve got a lot of paybacks out there.”
Asked if he needed to get involved, Hendrick mentioned Chastain’s team owner, Justin Marks.
“I would think Justin would have a conversation” with Chastain.
As for the message Marks should deliver?
“If you have a lot of people wanting to pay you back, then it’s hard to win a championship that way,” Hendrick said.
As for all the incidents with Chastain, Hendrick said: “It’s really getting old with these guys.”
Hendrick’s words filled a void left by Larson, who left the track without talking to reporters.
Hendrick’s comments came after one of his drivers — William Byron— won his series-high third Cup victory Sunday at Darlington Raceway.
But it could have been Larson had it not been for Chastain.
Chastain and Larson were battling for the lead on a restart with six laps to go when trouble struck.
Chastain made contact with Larson and they hit again. Chastain’s right rear hit Larson’s left front. The contact spun Chastain’s car sideways and damaged the left front of Larson’s car, ending his chances of a victory. Larson finished 20th.
“I fully committed into (Turn) 1 and wanted to squeeze (Larson) up,” Chastain said after exiting the infield care center. “Didn’t want to turn myself across his nose for sure. Not how I wanted to be standing here talking to you all here.”
On the previous restart, the roles had been reversed. Larson was on the bottom lane and Chastain on the top lane. Chastain hit the wall.
When asked by his team if he got into the wall, Chastain responded on the radio: “Oh yeah. He drove us right in it.”
As Chastain determined which lane to pick for the next restart, he asked his team if they thought Larson was done or if Larson would do the same thing.
The team responded by telling Chastain to choose which lane he felt stronger. It was the bottom, setting up his fateful contact with Larson.
Issues between Chastain and Larson started at Talladega. Chastain’s contact with Noah Gragson at the front of the field created an accordion affect that collected Larson and ended his race. Larson finished 33rd.
At Dover the following week, Chastain got into the back of Brennan Poole, sending Poole’s car up the track into Larson, ending his chances to win. Larson finished 32nd.
After Sunday’s incident, crew chief Cliff Daniels told Larson on the radio: “Why did he just run right into the fence? How does that make any sense? … Make that three races now that he’s taken us out, Chevrolet. Good job. Good job. That’s three races that (No.) 1 car has taken us out of.”