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Is Chastain Truly the Villain he is Painted to be?

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How many drivers in the garage area have had an issue with Ross Chastain? The list would certainly be shorter if we were asking who HASN’T had an issue with him. In the last year and a half, Ross Chastain has catapulted to the top of the sport. The watermelon farmer turned bus driver is now one of the sports top competitors, and it isn’t without controversy.

Is all the hate directed at Chastain from the fans, drivers, and TV personalities warranted however?

The debate sparked once more after Monday’s action at the Monster Mile of Dover. Chastain would get into a lapped Brennan Poole, and send him around, collecting Kyle Larson in the process. Check out Poole’s comments as well as the incident here.

There are two sides to every story, and that is certainly the case here. #ThanksRoss is the new #ThanksObama meme in the NASCAR community. If something doesn’t go right, safe to just blame Ross, if nothing more than just the meme. While Chastain has had some questionable at best moments in his short time in the Cup series, who hasn’t?

Kyle Busch earlier this season said there was a lack of respect in the garage, and maybe he’s right, and even had his own comments about Chastain, saying they were “Chastained.”

While it is funny to have the “Chastained” term, it is a bit interesting that Busch would call for more respect, but are we just going to forget the Truck Series race where Busch flat out took out Ron Hornaday during the playoffs under caution because of a little contact?

Sure, Kyle Busch had quite the reputation, and received his fair share of boos too. This wouldn’t be called into question had Busch not made comments about being Chastained and a lack of respect in the garage.

Flat out wrecking someone is one thing, it is never condoned and never should be. There is a difference between dumping a guy and racing hard and laying it all out on the line. The first example of this is Chastain’s first ever win, at COTA last season.

Chastain laid it all on the line, and was the winner of one heck of an exciting finish. This is what racing is about. Assume your driver was in Chastain’s position in that race, would you have wanted them to race any different? He got the job done, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters? Especially in this “win and you’re in” format. Every single weekend is an opportunity to put yourself in the field to be a champion, and Chastain embodies laying it all on the line.

There is an extremely valid argument to one part of the Chastain villain story, the constant apologies. We heard yet another one at Dover, regarding his contact with Brennan Poole.

This isn’t the first time we have heard an apology from Chastain. Remember the soap box he put on at World Wide Technology Raceway (formally Gateway) last season?

Listen, apologizing is one thing, and there is certainly a place for it. When it becomes an issue is when those apologies become empty. Eventually, if you continue to apologize for something and then go out and do the same thing again, it becomes weightless. At this point, only apologize if it was a genuine mistake, but at this level of competition, mistakes don’t happen at this frequency. The Poole contact today is a prime example. The reputation with the fans and competitors will diminish rapidly if you are seen as disingenuous, and that is a very valid argument against Chastain.

Final Thoughts

Is the hate against Chastain warranted? To a degree yes, and to a degree no. His image as disingenuous has severe merit, but his style of racing in general is nothing new in our sport. Many before Chastain have raced incredibly aggressively, with little to no respect for anything or anybody except the trophy. The late Dale Earnhardt is praised for the very same racing style. His move at Bristol on Terry Labonte is plastered all over the high banks, played constantly on promotional material for NASCAR, and he is celebrated as one of the greatest of all time.

Chastain’s style would be welcomed by any other fan if it meant their driver would be in victory lane. Because again, this is a competition, and the objective is to win, and without a doubt, Chastain does everything in his power to do just that week in and week out. It was that style of racing that put a second year team into the final four on pure consistency and grit. The “Hail Melon” is wore out, but it is evidence that nobody on the track wants it more than the watermelon man, Ross Chastain.

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Matt Smith

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