NASCAR takeaways: Ross Chastain again in middle of controversy at Darlington

DARLINGTON, SC – Ross Chastain strikes again. This time, however, not after a race but at a key moment on the track.

Chastain, battling for the lead on the first lap on a restart with six laps remaining at Darlington Raceway, tried to pinch Kyle Larson to force him to lose momentum in the top slot next to the wall, but the move went awry, with Chastain sliding in. Larson, wrecking himself and ruining Larson’s hopes of winning the race.

It was the third time in four weeks that Chastain was involved in a wreck where she didn’t intentionally drive into someone but did make contact. His aggressive style, when things are going well, is celebrated, but has frustrated many drivers and teams recently, and it came to a head last week when he and Noah Gragson got into a fight.

The beneficiary this week was Byron, who got his third win of the year. Following Byron at the finish line were Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace.

Darlington Takeaway:

The Chastain-Larson mess

Chastain was unable to continue from the crash while Larson finished 20th.

“Total commitment [Turn] 1,” Chastain said. “I got really tight and drove and turned around. I wanted to squeeze him. I wanted to push him up. We had been trading back and forth all day.

“Sure I wanted to push him up, but I definitely didn’t want to become him.”

“I wanted to squeeze him”

Ross Chastain discussed his strategy for battling Kyle Larson at the end of the Goodyear 400.

Larson had no comment after the race. But his team owner, Rick Hendrick, at Team Byron’s winning press conference, had some harsh words.

“You just don’t run people over the fence,” Hendrick said. “He’s going to make a lot of enemies. It’s hard to win a championship when you have a lot of turnovers out there. … He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies here.”

Chastain repeated her comments when asked if she has to compete with Larson differently moving forward.

“We’re all in the race and I’m fully committed to it [Turn] 1 and I wanted to squeeze it, I didn’t want to turn my nose up for sure,” he said outside the track’s medical center. “This is not how I wanted to be talking to all of you here. Another amazing day for Trackhouse.”

Chastain-Truex Tangle

Chastain said his car wasn’t the same after he and Truex had an incident at the end of stage two when Truex ran him a little too close to the wall and Chastain bounced off the wall and Truex.

Truex, who led 145 of the first 150 laps, ended up wrecking late in the race on a restart.

“It was just an unfortunate deal,” Truex said. “There was a lot of space there and it just bounced off the wall and hit me and hit my right front toe and we were pretty curious from there.”

Byron celebrates the 100-24 win

William Byron earned the 100th win for the No. 24 car, which was made famous by team co-owner Jeff Gordon.

It also marked Byron’s third win of the season. Last year, Byron took two wins in the first eight races and did not win again.

He has won two of the first four races this year and it has been a significant moment not to have another slump after wins.

“Things have a way of working”

William Byron spoke to Jamie Little after winning at Darlington.

“We kind of chipped in and kind of tried to make sure that didn’t happen again, so we probably pushed ourselves a little bit just to make sure it didn’t happen again,” Byron said.

“Now I think we’re definitely in a groove here where we have to continue our processes, continue what got us here, but it definitely feels different than what we had last year where I felt after winning these two runs we had. I just had a false confidence. We learned from that.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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