Denny Hamlin said Monday he intentionally made late contact with rival Ross Chastain during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event, saying he felt the time was right to exact revenge at Phoenix Raceway.
“It was not a mistake,” said Hamlin. “I let go of the wheel, and I said, ‘He’s coming with me.’ ,
Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was pitted in sixth for the final restart as Sunday’s United Rental Works United 500 went into overtime, but the car pushed high heading into Turn 1 on the next-to-last lap. Gave. Struggling to turn his car and facing a mediocre finish, Hamlin said he opted to take Chastain’s No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet – fifth at the starting point – into the retaining wall with him.
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“I saw we were the only guys upstairs, so I said I’d send him to the corral and get him out,” Hamlin said on his Actions Harmful Podcast Hosted by Dirty Mo Media, explaining that it did not want to collect any of its other competitors. “Now my dumb ass got stuck in that because I was pinned. He was between me and the wall, and then I got all screwed up, and then I lost a bunch of positions to my team, which was (offensive) ) was stupid as in. But at that point, I’m like, I’m gonna end up in the mid-teens anyway because my car is plowing up here right now, and I’m gonna eat all these (on other drivers) new tires I was just like, If I’m going to give this guy a hard time, it’s going to happen.
Hamlin finished 23rd, one position ahead of Chastain in the 36-car field. The two have a history of run-ins that escalated the previous season, with Hamlin being on the receiving end of much of the conflict.
Hamlin said the timing of the events factored into his decision.
“I said it, and I think Ross doesn’t like it when I say his name in the media and when I have this microphone,” Hamlin said, “but I told him, ‘Okay, my I have a microphone, and I will say it as I see it, and until you get the microphone, you can say whatever you want about me.’ But the fact is, when I’m out here talking, I’ll call things as I see it, and sometimes I have to call out myself, which idiot I am who would just miss as many spots. He did. But at that point, I said, well, I’m going to finish (offensive) anyway, and I’m just going to make sure he finishes right here with me.
Hamlin cited their most recent event with Chastain during the preseason Busch Light clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, a collision that sent Hamlin’s No. 11 entry looping in the exhibition schedule. He also said he spoke with Chastain after Sunday’s race in Phoenix, saying he hoped they would be able to put their animosity aside.
“When he knows it’s coming, he’s the toughest person on the planet to wreak havoc,” Hamlin said. “But I just, I wanted to get back to racing honestly with him, and I think that’s a lot of the conversations we had afterward. … He came over to me, and he said, ‘I think That I deserve it.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I’m not going to sit here on this podcast and never lie to you guys and say, ‘Well, it’s an accident,’ when it’s not. It wasn’t an accident. I meant to put them on the fence, but I didn’t mean to sabotage my team in the process. ….But at that point in time when you’re seeing red, that’s what really matters. I just saw an opportunity not to involve anyone else, I was about to go back and I wanted to take her with me. So we talked, and I think we’re in a better place where I think we’re willing to put the past behind us, and I think we’re at this point going to judge each other, and I think that’s the fairest way to do it.