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Should Ross Chastain be Reined In?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What Jeff Burton Had to Say

Nate Ryan posted a clip recently from the NASCAR on NBC podcast where Jeff Burton made a strong defense of Ross Chastain. Burton claimed that team owner Justin Marks should not have stepped in to rein in Chastain’s aggressiveness. Rather, Burton believes that Marks should let Chastain mature over a period of years.

Burton was asked specifically whether or not Mark’s comments and efforts have effected Chastain, and Burton said that they have. Burton goes on to say that Chastain has raced like this for years, and that making him change the way he races is hard to do.

What if somebody came to your job and said, ‘You know, you’re pretty damn good at what you do, but we gotta do it different, and we need to do it different now’. How the hell would you do that? And you’re doing it in a sport where people, they want you vulnerable. They want to take advantage of you. It’s in a sport where it’s perfectly acceptable to want to beat the Hell out of you.

Jeff Burton

Burton goes on to talk about two specific drivers in Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Burton claims that those drivers developed over a period of years and a period of maturing. He feels that Chastain needs that rather than to be reined in the way that he is.

Analyzing Burton’s Claims

Jeff Burton has been critical of Ross Chastain in the past, and understandably so. That makes these comments all the more interesting. One thing that cannot be denied is that Chastain’s performance has definitely taken a dip in recent weeks.

For added context, Justin Marks made his efforts to rein in Chastain public following the Darlington race in March. Ever since that race, Chastain was a non-factor finishing 11th in the All Star Race, and backed it up with two straight 22nd place finishes at Charlotte and Gateway.

Could Chastain’s dip in performance be because of Marks trying to rein Chastain in? It’s certainly a possibility, but it certainly could not be the only factor. How has Chastain’s performance compared to other performances at these race tracks?

North Wilkesboro’s best direct comparison is probably Martinsville, where Chastain finished 13th in March, but had two top fives last year. He led the most laps in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, but finished 22nd there this year as a complete non-factor. He finished eighth last year at Gateway, but finished 22nd this year after accidentally spinning Michael McDowell.

It is also worth noting that Trackhouse has struggled to get both Chastain and Suarez running well at the same time. Suarez did run well at Gateway and North Wilkesboro, but he finished 23rd at Charlotte and currently sits only 16th in the points standings. Trackhouse is obviously not the same team it was last year.

Could Chastain being asked to rein it in be playing a factor? It certainly seems possible based on these numbers, but it’s ultimately impossible to tell. It’s also an objective truth that Chastain’s over aggressiveness has cost him races most notably at Darlington, so something did need to change.

Should Chastain’s aggressiveness be matured similar to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch as Burton claims? It did take Busch and Harvick a while to become championship level drivers even if their talents showed at an early age.

Both drivers were parked by NASCAR early in their careers for intentionally crashing drivers. Harvick was parked in 2002 at Martinsville and Busch in 2011 at Texas. Both drivers were also very inconsistent during their early careers.

In his first nine seasons, Harvick had three top-five points finishes, but he also had five outside of the top 10. As for Busch, he did not find the top five in points at the end of the season until his ninth season. Now, both drivers have 60+ wins and are sure to be all-time greats.

Chastain may never reach that level, but is it possible that what Chastain really needs is some patience and time to mature? He is 30 years old now, so that maturing needs to happen quicker than others if he wants to win a championship. At the same time, his aggressiveness got him to the Championship Four last year.

This is an all-but impossible puzzle to solve. The bottom line is that something needs to change, because Chastain’s performance is not up to his standards.

In the Stands

Anita Garrison finds an interesting comparison in Ernie Irvan.

Dean Vecchio agrees with Burton.

Nick Brincks says that two bad races is too small of a sample size.

I concur seemingly former Jeff Gordon fan who is somehow an RCR fan.

Again, this is not something that can or will be solved overnight. The bottom line is that Chastain and Trackhouse need to find better performance on the track.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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