Finishing 19th in a Late Model race may not sound like fun, but his participation was part of the lead-in events to this weekend’s All-Star Weekend and the reopening of the iconic North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.
“My fun meter is pegged,” Chastain said after Wednesday night’s race. “We were just loose, loose from the moment we unloaded. We just couldn’t get there. Made a lot of changes on the car but we just kept running the rear tires off it.
“Even though I was going backwards, I was learning. I can’t race enough – I can’t race enough cars and enough laps on a track that’s new to me. This was a really good start to the week even though there were a lot of guys that did a lot of things better tonight than I did.”
Unfortunately for Chastain, he was once again the dominant topic of conversation this week following his actions late in Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Kyle Larson squeezed Chastain into the wall on a restart with 13 laps remaining as he tried to hold on to his lead. On the next restart, Chastain attempted a similar move to try and stymie Larson’s advance, but this time both cars ended up wrecking.
William Byron, who was running third, inherited the lead and went on to win the race in overtime, while Chastain ended up in the garage and Larson limped home 20th.
After the race, Chastain received a lot of criticism, particularly from Hendrick executive Jeff Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick.
Chastain’s co-owner at Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, said he had a meeting with Chastain this week to discuss how to avoid similar incidents in the future.
“There’s definitely been a lot thrown at me this week. It all comes from with six laps to go and a mistake on my part … it brought a lot of heat down on me,” Chastain said. “With six laps to go, I have to live with that. I have to live with those decisions.”
Chastain said Marks could say “anything and everything to help me get better. He hired me to drive that car and I come with my fair share of baggage.
“I will take this and get better. That doesn’t mean I’m never going to run in to somebody again. Like, I don’t want people to think I’m just going to lay over with six laps to go and a chance to win at Darlington.
“Yes, I overstepped the line. I’m willing to live with that. I’ve tried to move on and yesterday and today in this car has helped me do that.”
Speaking with Rick Hendrick
Chastain said this week he had spoken to Hendrick, officials at Chevrolet, Larson and “a lot of other people.”
“I feel really good about where we’re at, but I will keep those conversations private. I called Rick,” Chastain said. “That wasn’t the reason I wanted to be calling him, but it’s not the first time we’ve talked, and I don’t think it will be the last.
“One day, I hope I’m able to laugh with him about it.”
Chastain said it isn’t lost on him the difficult position he has put his owner Marks or himself, as he has spent a good part of the 2023 season leading the series standings and had cars capable of contending for wins, like on Sunday.
“I deserve every bit of heat and every bad word that’s come my way and ill-will that people are thinking about me. I get it. I’ll take it,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is I’m going to drive my race car to the best of my ability. If I mess up, I will own that but I do feel like some other guys ought to own some of their stuff, too.”