Count Kyle Petty as one of those on Ross Chastain‘s side.
Chastain has been drawing a lot of heat in the NASCAR garage lately for his aggressive driving style, causing a number of incidents on the track that have taken out – and angered – his fellow competitors.
Ross finished second in final standings last year and is currently leading the points for 2023 despite not having won a race this season (yet), but lately he’s been getting more attention for what he’s been doing wrong than what he’s doing right.
A couple weeks ago at Talladega, an aggressive move by Chastain sent Noah Gragson spinning, settling off a wreck that ended up taking out several drivers, including massive hits for Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece.
Then last week at Dover, Chastain was running 4th when he got into the slower car of Brennan Poole, who had just been put a lap down to the leaders. The bump from Chastain sent the #15 of Poole spinning down the track before sliding back up and directly into the path of an oncoming Larson, who had one of the fastest cars of the race.
Larson had some harsh words for Chastain on the radio after the wreck, calling him a “f*cking idiot” for pulling a move like that and being so aggressive in just the first stage of the race.
“I felt like I just got ran over for no reason 80 laps into the race. Doesn’t make any sense to me but I guess that’s something he’s been known to do here recently. Probably needs to get his butt whooped.”
Even Alex Bowman, who’s out for 3-4 weeks following a fractured vertebra suffered during a sprint car crash last week, weighed in on Chastain’s move on Twitter:
Then things seem to come to a head this past weekend at Kansas when Chastain once again found himself in the middle of the controversy.
Early in the race, Chastain and Kyle Busch tangled on the track and Busch expressed his displeasure with Chastain:
Later on, Chastain and Gragson got together yet again when Chastain ran Gragson high coming out of turn four and ended up putting Gragson into the fence, effectively ending his day early after Gragson would cut down a tire just a few laps later.
Then after the race, tempers flared between Chastain and Gragson on pit road. The two were having a heated conversation when Gragson grabbed Chastain by the firesuit and began pushing him – which apparently didn’t sit well with Chastain, who threw a haymaker that landed right on Gragson’s jaw.
After the scuffle, NASCAR posted video of Chase Elliott encouraging Gragson on pit road for confronting Chastain, telling him that “somebody’s gotta do it.”
So yeah, Chastain’s not making many friends in the garage area.
But off the track, many are praising Chastain’s driving style – and comparing it to some other well-known NASCAR legends.
Kyle Petty, son of the legendary seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty, recently came to Chastain’s defense, even comparing Chastain to his legendary father:
“Everybody likes to complain about Ross Chastain…
What happens is, when you have a new guy running at the sharp end of the stick, winning races and challenging the establishment, people are going to complain.
Ross Chastain drives like Richard Petty, like Cale Yarborough, like Dale Earnhardt Sr. did in a lot of ways, like Joey Logano does. He has one purpose: It’s to win the race.
He didn’t come to make friends. He didn’t come to bake you a cake, to sing happy birthday to you, to hang out with you in the bus lot. He come to take your trophy and take your money, and that’s what he does on a fairly consistent basis.”
And Petty says he’s ok with Chastain’s aggressiveness – because that’s what they get paid to do:
“Is he aggressive? Yes. Is that ok? It’s ok with me. It should be ok with you.
Remember when drivers started complaining ‘Oh they raced me too hard, they shouldn’t be racing me that hard 50 laps into the race.’
That’s what you get paid for.”
I mean, he’s got a point. Gragson’s problem with Chastain was that he “raced him too hard” coming off of turn four at Kansas. But isn’t that the point? Sure, it was early in the race, but why should any driver expect another to take it easy on them?
I’m personally a big fan of Chastain’s aggressiveness. It’s fun to watch, and it’s been missing in NASCAR for a while now.
Fight for every position, and if somebody wants to take a position from you, make them earn it.
That’s what makes NASCAR fun. And apparently Kyle Petty agrees.