LONG POND, Pa. — With 36 laps to go in Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway, Ross Chastain pitted for the final time from the second position. His team fired off a stop in just under 11 seconds, packing the car full of fuel.
One lap earlier, then-race leader Kyle Busch made his final stop of the day. His team serviced the 18 in about 13 seconds, filling the fuel cell and tightening up his car.
Once the pit cycle completed, Chastain had made it around Busch and assumed the race lead. Denny Hamlin quickly passed Busch, who was now too tight, and moved into second place.
Suddenly, a caution came out after Ryan Blaney smashed the inside frontstretch wall. With just 44 laps to go, it set up a battle between Chastain and Hamlin for the victory.
The two drivers have had their share of run-ins over the last several months. At Gateway in June, Chastain accidentally hit Hamlin and put him in the wall, suffering tow link damage on the 11 car. At Atlanta just two weeks ago, Chastain tapped Hamlin and spun him out while battling for the win, also unintentional.
With another win on the line Sunday, Hamlin made sure Chastain wouldn’t wind up in victory lane. On a restart with 16 laps to go, Hamlin and Chastain were side by side through Turn 1 when Hamlin ran Chastain up into the wall. Chastain then slid across the track, collecting Kevin Harvick, and hitting the inside wall.
Chastain could not continue and finished the race 34th.
“I think that’s something that’s been owed to me the last month or two now,” Chastain said after the crash. “We were racing him for the lead and that’s when he decided to do it.”
“I had that one coming. If I had raced smarter two months ago, I probably would have had plenty of room off Turn 1 and I realized that for the last month or two… He’s a future Hall of Famer in this sport and actions speak louder than words.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to be the aggressor… I know that my actions bear consequences, so for a month or two, I’ve known that I stepped over the line and wrecked him.”
Hamlin originally won the race before being disqualified for a front fascia aerodynamical issue. He declined to comment on Chastain in his post-race press conference.
“Who?” Hamlin joked.
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart chuckled.
“You got the point?” Gabehart said.
Chastain scored 15 points and held second in Cup Series driver’s points.