Ross Chastain, one of the most polarizing drivers in NASCAR has made a reputation for himself as a guy who will do whatever it takes to get ahead, with no regard for anyone else on the track.
This is a competition, and honestly our sport needs more personalities like this. However, he certainly isn’t doing himself any favors to get the benefit of the doubt, and with a playoff structure like NASCAR’s, the question remains if this style of racing will ever permit him to win a title.
The list of drivers Chastain hasn’t had a run in with is certainly shorter than the list of those he has, but when did all this start? Has the watermelon farmer always raced this way? Let’s figure that out, and take a look at the whole story. This is the Ross Chastain Iceberg.
2015 U.S. Cellular 250 with Ryan Reed
The earliest known scuffle we could find was 8 years ago at Iowa Speedway in the Xfinity Series. Chastain, then driving the #4, would get into Roush Fenway driver Ryan Reed, resulting in things getting physical on pit road after the race.
2017 O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 with Brendan Gauhan
This was really the first time that we saw the overly aggressive driving and more so a retaliation from Chastain. This would come at Texas and would see Chastain turn into Gaughan down the backstretch in retaliation to previous contact.
2018 Rock N Roll Tequila 170 with Joey Gase
This time Chastain would pull his classic move on driving into the corner at Mid Ohio turning Gase to make the pass. Chastain has pulled this move plenty of times, and it won’t be the last time you see it on this list.
Gase would later find Chastain on pit road and try to make it physical, but in typical NASCAR official fashion, it would be broke up.
2018 Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 with Kevin Harvick
This is definitely the first big one of Chastain’s career, happening at Darlington. He would get squeezed by Harvick coming off the corner, and would ultimately turn down into Harvick ending Harvick’s day.
Harvick would say in the interview that Chastain was an inexperienced kid with a fast race car, and his actions were why he “wouldn’t get to drive many more fast cars.” That statement certainly didn’t age well.
This was also a time before the constant apologies, with Ross saying it was just a racing deal, like he did in in the incidents before.
2018 Bar Harbor 200 with Matt Tifft
Noticing a trend? 2018 was certainly an active year for the Chastain iceberg. In this installment Chastain would yet again pull his famous drive into the turn and move someone out of the groove to make the pass. The someone in this instance was Matt Tifft.
Chastain did the exact OPPOSITE of an apology after the race, saying he WASN’T sorry. What changed in the Chastain villain origin story to prompt the over exaggerated apologies?
2019 Zippo 200 at The Glen with Justin Allgaier
This would be the first time we would really see the victim of Chastain’s driving get full blown revenge on the track.
Chastain would spin Allgaier, and when Allgaier would get back to Chastain, he would send him into the wall, getting his revenge.
Cup Series Phoenix 2021 with Kyle Busch
Chastain’s first real enemy in the Cup Series wasn’t Denny Hamlin, but his then teammate Kyle Busch. Busch would check up and Chastain would drive through him sending Busch around.
Rowdy would later confront Ross on pit road. This wouldn’t be the only issue Rowdy and Chastain would have. Chastain would hold Busch up that same season while a lap down, allowing Kyle’s brother Kurt to pass Kyle for the win at Atlanta that season.
Cup Series Richmond 2022 with Ryan Blaney
Another driver bitten by Chastain, this time it was Ryan Blaney at Richmond. Chastain’s signature move of the bump and run would send Blaney up the track losing him multiple positions.
Blaney would express his displeasure with Chastain after the race in an interview.
Cup Series Dover 2022 with Martin Truex Jr
While Chastain has certainly made some questionable moves in his career, and rightfully earned the distaste from the others involved, this one with Martin Truex Jr didn’t seem like Ross did anything inherently wrong.
Truex would still show his displeasure with Ross after contact on the last lap would cause Truex to wreck, costing him a solid finish.
Even the folks in the Fox studio breaking it down didn’t see an issue with anything Ross did here, so maybe some of the hate thrown his way isn’t warranted, but nonetheless, it was yet another driver upset with Chastain.
Cup Series Gateway 2022 with Denny Hamlin & Chase Elliott
This is it, the moment when Chastain would go from “aggressive driver” to public enemy number one status. The infamous Denny Hamlin vs Ross Chastain storyline begins here.
It wouldn’t just be Denny who was victimized by Ross in this race, and because of the other driver Chastain would get into, he would be plagued with the same curse Kyle Busch was plagued with after Richmond 2008. Chastain had run into NASCAR’s golden child, Chase Elliott.
We all remember the antics that ensued, and we saw once rivals in Denny and Chase, team up to mess with Ross anyway possible.
This would also be when Chastain would first showcase his over the top apologies. Even with this one being the first of its kind, fans recognized quickly that it was over done and didn’t seem sincere. We would see it issued more and more since.
Cup Series 2022 Martinsville “The Hail Melon”
It is extremely important to note that in the spirit of fairness, we acknowledge Chastain’s desire to win at all costs. While it has certainly rubbed fans and drivers alike the wrong way at times, it was put on display in a positive light at last year’s cut off race at Martinsville.
We have all seen it. On the last lap Chastain was outside of the Final Four looking in. In true Chastain fashion, he pulled one of the craziest stunts in NASCAR history to put himself into the transfer position to race for a Championship.
While the move has since been prohibited, it shows that while Chastain is certainly rough around the edges, his competitive spirit is unmatched in our sport.
Cup Series 2023 Phoenix with Denny Hamlin
This is a weird one, and showed that the Hamlin V Chastain rivalry was still alive nearly a year later. While Hamlin would move Chastain at Pocono in 2022, Hamlin would again get into Ross at Phoenix on the last lap.
While this doesn’t look too harmless, it was what Hamlin would say the next day on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast that would make this relevant. Hamlin would admit that he doored Chastain on purpose for actions committed at the Busch Clash of all places.
Cup Series 2023 Dover with Brennan Poole
The penultimate incident in the iceberg to this point. Chastain was roasted heavily by fans, tv personalities, and drivers for this incident with Brennan Poole which also ultimately ended Kyle Larson’s day.
While this was boneheaded enough, cue the apologies once more. Chastain would again apologize profusely for his actions, and once more, fans, media personalities, and drivers weren’t buying it.
Larry McReynolds put it best on his show “On Track” on Sirius XM NASCAR radio when he compared the apologies to a kid continually doing something wrong and apologizing over and over again for the same action. He stated that the apologies are worse than the action, and many agree.
Cup Series 2023 Kansas with Noah Gragson
You are here in the timeline. This is the tip of the iceberg as we know it so far, and it did not disappoint.
Chastain would run Noah Gragson into the wall after getting tight off corner exit, which in itself is actually a pretty mild Chastain occurrence.
A tough break for Noah Gragson. pic.twitter.com/Ld5vsUqsC9— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 7, 2023
Of course, after the race is when the fireworks would begin. Gragson would find Chastain on pit road, and next thing you know Chastain lands a nasty punch and the officials stepped in to break it up.
Cup Series 2023 Darlington with Kyle Larson
The Iceberg grows at alarming rates sometimes. This time Chastain would get into Kyle Larson on the second to last restart of the race with under 10 laps to go, sliding up the track and colliding with Larson, ultimately taking both of them out of contention for the win.
Kyle Larson would call Chastain a hack over the radio after the incident, but would not comment on the accident after the race. Someone from Hendrick who did comment was team owner Rick Hendrick.
Alright, so comments from Rick Hendrick, while spicy, were not super surprising. What was surprising however, are the comments Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks would say regarding Chastain’s racing style on Sirius XM following the race.
While @JustinMarksTH belief in @RossChastain’s talent remains unchanged, he says this latest incident at Darlington is cause for concern.— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) May 15, 2023
🗣️ “He’s got some things he’s got to clean up. We, today, started a process of more aggressively handling that.” #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/Pu8qcc9s4n
This is certainly an interesting take from the team owner. While Chastain was surprisingly unapologetic after this incident, Larson did the same to him the restart prior, so apologies may not have been in order.
Cup Series 2023 Gateway with Michael McDowell
Ahh, we have come full circle to when Chastain was first labeled the enemy. He wouldn’t have a scotch free Gateway race this year either, as he would get into Michael McDowell spinning him around.
This one isn’t nearly as egregious in my opinion, but over aggressive driving did cause him to hit the rumble strips sending him into another innocent bystander.
Add Michael McDowell to the list of drivers impacted by Chastain’s driving.
There you have it. When you put it all on paper it really is a long list. Certainly there are other instances that didn’t make this iceberg, only adding on to this messy villain story.
Whether you are on Chastain’s side on the premise that it is just “hard racing” or if you think Chastain is a menace to society, it is apparent that Chastain is consistent in his ability to upset his fellow competitors and doesn’t shy away from contact and controversy.
How much more will be added on to this Iceberg? Chastain is only 30 years old, well before his prime years of racing even. With him finding success and a home at Trackhouse Racing, the list could grow exponentially.
Another interesting note is since team owner Justin Marks made public comments about Ross needing to clean things up, he hasn’t performed nearly as well. Does Chastain need that style of driving to be successful?