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At the end of the race, both drivers had gained track position with a two-tire call. They restarted near the front for a sprint to the checkered flag, but it all went wrong when Hamlin slid up from the middle of the track in Turns 1 and 2 and slammed into the side of Chastain, putting the Trackhouse driver in the wall.
They lost several positions and continued to beat on each other down the backstretch and into Turns 3 and 4. Hamlin finished 23rd, and Chastain 24th.
Not the first time
Hamlin went into detail about his entire thought-process leading up to the contact. Realizing he was in a suboptimal position and having several drivers with four fresh tires right behind him, he decided to use up Chastain, who he believes had it coming.
“I’m about to get passed by everybody behind me who is on fresh tires,” he explained. “I’m about to finish in the mid-teens and I said, ‘you’re coming with me buddy.’ It wasn’t a mistake. I let the wheel go and I said he’s coming with me.”
It’s no secret that the two drivers have had several run-ins dating back to last summer at Gateway. They clashed again at Atlanta Motor Speedway and then Pocono Raceway. In fact, it was Hamlin that Chastain eliminated from the playoffs when he famously rode the wall into the Championship 4 at Martinsville.
The 2023 season began with yet another incident in the pre-season exhibition race in Los Angeles, with Chastain spinning Hamlin. According to the podcast, that sounded like the catalyst for this latest run-in.
Hamlin then declared: “You have to do something to get these guys’ attention.”
Looking back, he only lamented the fact that he cost himself over a dozen positions as well. “I’m the dumbass who lost just as many spots as he did. But at the time, I was going to finish (expletive) anyway and I’m just gonna make sure that he finishes (expletive) right here with me.”
He also expressed discomfort with involving other drivers in such retaliation in the past, citing an incident at Pocono last year when he ran Chastain up the track in the battle for the win. Chastain crashed and collected Kevin Harvick.
“But here, I saw that we were the only people up top so I said I’m gonna send him into the fence and door him. Now my dumbass got caught up in it because I got pinned. He was between me and the wall, and so I got all screwed up, and then I lost a bunch of positions for my team, which was stupid as (expletive).”
The move cost Chastain the championship lead, and gave the No. 1 team its worst result of the 2023 season so far. After the initial contact, Chastain appeared to brake-check Hamlin as they raced down into Turn 3. Hamlin then hit him again.
“I’ll be honest with you, the (expletive) is hard to spin,” said Hamlin in regards to Chastain. “When he knows it’s coming, he is the hardest guy to wreck on the planet.”
Hamlin went on to say that he wants this to be the end of it and hopes to “get back to racing” with Chastain. The two talked afterwards on pit road and apparently agreed to a truce.
“We talked and I think that we are in a better place where I think we’re willing to put the past behind us, said Hamlin. “And I think that we’re going to judge each other from this point forward, and I think that’s the fairest way to do it.”
He later added: “I was, in the conversation, practically begging him to just take accountability for the past. I had to kind of push him into taking that accountability, but I think I heard what I wanted to hear and now I’m ready to move on, and hopefully he’s ready to move on and we’re going to race each other hard but clean in the future.”
Now only time will tell if this is truly the end of the Hamlin/Chastain feud, or just another chapter in it.