Denny Hamlin’s admission on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast that he intentionally fenced Ross Chastain on the last lap at Phoenix Raceway might cost him.
Hamlin laid out in detail how his mindset changed Sunday from going into Turn 1 with the intention of getting the best finish he could to taking advantage of the situation. The race went to overtime, and Hamlin was one of six drivers who had previously pitted for two tires.
“They were calling the 1 car (Chastain) on the outside, so at that point, I knew I was screwed,” Hamlin said. “I had all the four-tire cars on my ass. They were going to pass me more than likely in the next corner. I knew I had two fresh tire cars underneath me anyway — I was four wide. I was like, ‘I’m going straight to the back.’”
When the final caution flew, Hamlin was running fifth and chose to start in that position on the inside lane. Chastain restarted sixth, which put him to the outside of Hamlin.
It didn’t take Hamlin long to realize he was in trouble. Although he restarted in the top 10, Hamlin knew he was unlikely to finish there.
“And I said, ‘You’re coming with me, buddy,’” Hamlin said of Chastain. “It wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go and I said, ‘He’s coming with me.’”
👂 #NASCAROvetime from the No. 1's point of view. @RossChastain | @TeamTrackhouse pic.twitter.com/Qh64i9jfX2
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 13, 2023
It was not a coincidence Hamlin chose Chastain as his victim, as the two have more than a brief history.
Hamlin did not like how Chastain raced him last season, particularly at World Wide Technology Raceway when Chastain ran into the back of Hamlin in Turn 1 early in the event, which sent Hamlin into the outside wall. Hamlin spent quite a bit of time the remainder of the race showing his displeasure.
Chastain also got into Hamlin in the summer race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Trackhouse Racing driver got into the left-rear quarter panel of Hamlin through Turns 3 and 4.
There was also Pocono Raceway. The two restarted on the front row late in the race, and while there was no contact, Hamlin squeezed Chastain into the wall off Turn 1.
Ironically, it was Chastain who ended Hamlin’s chances for a championship. Chastain’s video game move at Martinsville Speedway earned him five spots, including passing Hamlin, to put him in the Championship 4 and keeping Hamlin out.
However, Hamlin said on the podcast what he did at Phoenix had nothing to do with last season. Instead, Hamlin referenced their most recent contact when Chastain spun Hamlin at the Busch Light Clash in February.
“I’ve said for a while you’ve got to do something to get these guys’ attention,” said Hamlin. “Ross doesn’t like it when I speak his name in the media and when I have this microphone. But I told him, ‘Well, I have a microphone, and I’m going to call it like I see it, and until you get a microphone, you can then say whatever you want about me.’
“But the fact is, while I’m sitting here talking, I’m going to call things the way I see it, and sometimes I’m going to have to call myself out, which I’m the (expletive) who lost just as many spots as he did. But at the time, I said, well, I’m going to finish (expletive) anyway, and I’m just going to make sure he finishes (expletive) right here with me.”
Hamlin went on to say it’s difficult to do things like that because he doesn’t want to collect other drivers in a mess. Pocono was an example of that as Chastain came off the wall and collected Kevin Harvick, which was not Hamlin’s intention. But in Phoenix, Hamlin saw it was just himself and Chastain at the top of the track.
“So, I said, ‘I’m going to send him in the fence and door him,’” said Hamlin. “Now, my dumb (expective) got caught up in it because I got pinned. He was between me and the wall, and so I got all screwed up and lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid as (expletive). But at the time, I said, I’m going to finish in the mid-teens anyway because my car is just plowing here. I’m about to get eaten up by all these new tires.
“I was just like, if I’m going to give this car a hard time, it’s going to be here.”
Hamlin and Chastain did talk on pit road afterward, with Chastain telling Hamlin he assumed he deserved what happened. Hamlin believes the two are now in a better place to move on with more respect.
While outsiders might appreciate Hamlin’s honesty, they’ve caught NASCAR’s attention. Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he was made aware of Hamlin’s comments and officials will review them.
“It came to me late last night,” Sawyer said. “I’m aware of it, and we’ll dissect that early this morning and decide where we go.”