NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR DQs Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch; Chase Elliott wins Pocono
Jul 25, 2022
Before the disqualification that completely upended the results of the M&Ms Fan Appreciation 400, Denny Hamlin had seemingly won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono at the expense of emerging rival Ross Chastain.
Hamlin lined up on the front row next to Chastain for a restart with 17 laps to go. Hamlin drove up the track in Turn 1 and squeezed Chastain into the outside retaining wall.
The contact severely damaged the Trackhouse Racing No. 1 and sent Chastain to the infield care center. While there, he accepted what appeared to be a retaliatory action from Hamlin.
"No, I had that one coming," Chastain said. "And if I would have raced smarter two months ago, I probably would have had plenty of room off Turn 1. I’ve realized that for the last month or two, and it’s just too late for that so he paid it back and go onto Indy."
This rivalry began in earnest at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois when Chastain sent Hamlin into the wall on a restart early in the race. Hamlin responded by aggressively blocking Chastain on the track as he was attempting to get up to minimum speed to get off the damaged vehicle policy.
A month later at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hamlin spun due to contact from Chastain behind him, both races eliciting a strong response that retaliation was coming when it would hurt the most.
"Everyone has different tolerance levels and as you all know, I’ve reached my peak"
"You have to fence these guys hard, they have to learn the hard way. And it has to be meaningful."
While that could have been the upcoming playoffs, certainly denying Chastain a chance to win fits the description. During his frontstretch interview, Hamlin said it was a byproduct of hard racing between rival drivers.
"What'd you want me to do? What'd you expect me to do?" Hamlin told the USA Network broadcast. "We got position on him, and he just ran out of race track."
So, is it over?
"We’re going to keep racing hard until we get the respect back from these guys," Hamlin said. "It’s not just this. We’ve been wrecked four times, twice while leading in the last ten months and I’m at the end of it."
After their run-in at Atlanta, Chastain said he had gotten to know Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart pretty well over the past month through phone calls in the hopes of getting on the same page.
For his part, Chastain believes this was the long-anticipated retaliation and handled it diplomatically.
"He’s easily a future Hall-of-Famer in this sport," Chastain said, "and actions speak louder than words. I think we all knew what was owed to me and today he cashed that in. I know that my actions bear consequences, so for a month or two, I’ve known that I’ve stepped over the line and wrecked him so he decided to return it today."
During what was believed to be their winning press conference, Hamlin and Gabehart deflected when asked about Chastain.
"The what car? Which one? What contact? What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about that."
One unfortunate byproduct of the apparent retaliation is that it also involved a contending Kevin Harvick, who received right front damage in the ordeal, and could have been declared the winner had he finished behind Hamlin and Kyle Busch when they were disqualified.
Of course, Chastain could have been too.