An incident in overtime at Phoenix Raceway knocked Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain out of the top 10 and well below the top 20. Now, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has revealed that he purposely fenced his fellow Cup Series driver.
Hamlin provided an explanation during the March 13 episode of his podcast, “Actions Detrimental.” Hamlin said that he had the intention of getting the best finish that he possibly could on two tires. However, his car “was plowing” and he was seconds away from losing several spots to cars with four tires. He decided to turn his attention to Chastain.
“My crew chief told me that there were 18 cars on the lead lap,” Hamlin said. “At that point, I said, ‘All right, well, I’m probably — live looking at a picture — I’m probably running sixth or seventh. I’m about to get passed by everybody behind me who’s on fresh tires. I’m about to finish in the mid-teens.’
“And I said, ‘You’re coming with me, buddy.’ It wasn’t a mistake. No, it wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go, and I said, ‘He’s coming with me.’”
Hamlin Considered His Move Before Making It
There have been comments from Hamlin in the past year where he has talked about drivers needing to learn a lesson. Though he has shied away from intentionally spinning anyone out or exacting noticeable revenge. The reason is that he doesn’t want to cause any collateral damage.
“It’s difficult because at times people want me to react right away,” Hamlin continued. “But I don’t want to involve any other cars. I told you guys — privately, my friends — like, it’s difficult to be in a position where you can get back at a person and not involve an innocent bystander.
“It’s really hard to do because then you’ve got other people pissed at you because you’re doing something that affected their race when they had nothing to do with it. And I never wanted to do that, right?
“At Pocono, unfortunately, someone got caught up in that when Ross bounced back off the wall. But here, I saw we were the only people up top, so I said, ‘I’m going to send him into the fence.’”
The incident at Pocono occurred with 18 laps remaining in the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Chastain was in the lead, but Hamlin made a move to his inside. The two drivers made contact while leaning on each other.
The result was that Chastain hit the wall, bounced off into the front of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4, and then he slid into the inside wall. Hamlin went on to win. Though he was ultimately disqualified after post-race inspection.
Harvick, who was an innocent bystander, ended the day 27th overall after running inside the top 10 in all three stages. Chastain finished 32nd after the wreck.
The 2 Drivers Can Turn the Page
Hamlin intentionally fenced Chastain and knocked them both out of the top 10. This led to an extensive post-race discussion. Hamlin didn’t detail what they said, but he noted that Chastain said that he guessed he deserved that.
Interestingly, this situation at Phoenix Raceway may have helped the two drivers turn the page. Hamlin said that he thinks they are in a better place and that they are willing to put the past behind them while moving forward with their respective seasons.
Hamlin doesn’t know if this incident at Phoenix and the post-race chat will prevent further issues between him and Chastain. What he does know is that they both asked for a truce. He hopes that they will be able to race each other hard while still keeping it clean.