Watch: Denny Hamlin Plants the Seeds of Ross Chastain’s Villain Arc at Darlington

Published 09/01/2023, 10:55 AM EDT

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Squabbles and controversies attract attention like nothing else. This is true for NASCAR races as well. Where 30–40 700-horsepower beasts run at blazing speed, trying to take each other down and grab the checkered flag, the chances of on-track tussles are high. We have seen recent incidents such as the Larson-Hamlin brawl at Pocono or Austin Dillon shooting his $5,000 helmet at Tyler Reddick’s Toyota. However, when it comes to controversies, the name Ross Chastain speaks for itself.

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What if the two bad boys of NASCAR tried to take each other down at a racetrack like Darlington Speedway?

Would it not be a thrilling show? If one rolled the clock back to the 2020 Xfinity Series, a head-on tango between Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin became the main highlight of the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.


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History might repeat itself for Ross Chastain at Darlington

Although Brandon Jones closed in on the ending laps, NASCAR fans cheered at the pinnacle of their voices as they were having difficulty staying in their seats. But can we blame them? After all, with just 12 laps to go, Ross Chastain’s #10 faced a solid chase from the 23XI Racing co-owner.

Denny Hamlin has been driving for over a decade now. Hence, it is quite natural that he would not make the mistakes that a rookie would. So he continued tailing Chastain as the latter tried his best to hold Denny Hamlin off. Denny, too, tried his absolute best to race Ross Chastain clean and overtake him around the corners. However, Ross Chastain was no novice either. He posed a solid challenge for the seven-time Pocono winner and held the lead.


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Denny tried every trick he had up his sleeve. But Ross Chastain seemed to have foreseen all of it. Despite having the fastest car, Hamlin seemed to be so desperate at one point that he ran his right rear tire along the wall, producing some smoke as well. While Denny tried to take Chastain from the left, Chastain swerved to the left. When Denny attempted to use the banking in order to gain momentum, Ross Chastain blocked the groove.

However, the main battle started with four laps to go. Denny and Ross Chastain battled side-to-side, trying to get the upper hand. Surely, with just 2 laps to go, Denny was able to seize the lead, but when he tried to block Ross Chastain, the latter made contact with the #54 car. The result? Brandon Jones saw his chance and slid past the commotion, leading the rest of the race.

Watch this story: 7 Worst Wrecks Involving Ross Chastain That Proved Detrimental to His Rivals

The seeds of the villain arc that Denny Hamlin had planted in Ross Chastain at Darlington two years ago might now flaunt themselves into full growth. And that is clear from what Ross Chastain told a FOX pit reporter.

Ross Chastain would do anything to win at Darlington

A lot of anticipation is prevalent along the alleys of NASCAR as it rolls out its playoff course into Darlington. Trackhouse speedster Ross Chastain is prepared to give it his everything. And when Ross Chastain gives everything, that certainly cannot exclude taking off his gloves and punching a fellow racer in the face. You can guess who this fellow racer is.

Ex-JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith was curious about something else. Earlier in the current season, fans witnessed faint streaks of the savage Ross Chastain in NASCAR headlines. But those run-ins have been missing lately. Smith asked, “We haven’t seen Ross get into any of these dust-ups. But now, we know that the playoffs are about to start. How soon into the playoffs do those gloves come off and anything goes once again?”

Ross laughed and said, “Regan, Regan, Regan…We have to race with our gloves on, it’s SFI-mandated. I don’t want these digits getting fried out there!” To which, even the Xfinity Series part-timer giggled.


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Chastain continued, “We’ll go race the Southern 500. I really enjoyed Darlington. I love driving down there, I was a fan before I got into Cup… I want to win the Southern 500.”

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“So, whatever we have to do to do those things and win…(we’ll do),” he added.


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However, Chastain denied having an elaborate plan. He admitted, “Somebody’s gonna win so, there’s a bigger picture to all of these, but can’t get too far ahead, I just live in the present.”

Ross Chastain might not have revealed his actual plans. Or maybe the #1 Trackhouse sensation has gotten softer. But don’t you miss the brutal championships in NASCAR? We sure do. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that we get to see some of those cherished actions come back to Darlington this weekend.



Written by:

Soumyadeep Saha


One take at a time

Soumyadeep is a NASCAR writer at EssentiallySports. He has done his Master's in English Literature and is a semi-professional bodybuilder. He has, in recent years, channelized his love and commitment for motorsports into a building career path.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta




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