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NASCAR owner slams Ross Chastain after another incident with his driver

Rick Hendrick believes Ross Chastain is a talented race car driver, but the NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner hasn’t been impressed with his actions on the racetrack lately.

Hendrick offered pointed comments about Chastain at Darlington Raceway on Sunday night after Hendrick Motorsports won the race with driver William Byron. It was a bit of a subdued victory as Hendrick, the most successful team owner in Cup Series history, watched another one of his other drivers, Kyle Larson, get taken out of contention for the win when he and Chastain collided with six laps to go in regulation.

“I think you can ask any driver in here that he’s wrecked or been involved with him, he doesn’t have to be that aggressive,” Hendrick said of Chastain. “I guess at this point in the race, maybe you’re super-aggressive but don’t run people up into the fence. He’s going to make a lot of enemies, and it’s hard to win a championship when you got a lot of paybacks out there. He’s got so much talent; I think if he just calmed down that there’s a time in the race.

“Dale Earnhardt Sr. told me one time — I won’t name the driver who drove for me — but he said, ‘He’s got all the talent, he just doesn’t know how to race.’ Meaning he just knows when to race, when to push it. (Chastain’s) got a lot of talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies out here. Kyle now, this one and Dover and Talladega. It’s really getting old with these guys.”

Larson’s crew chief, Cliff Daniels, was heated in the intermediate aftermath of the crash. Daniels referred to three races that Chastain has “taken us out.” At Darlington, Chastain made direct contact with Larson, while incidents involving Chastain at Talladega Superspeedway, where he collided with Noah Gragson, and Dover Motor Speedway, where he ran into Brennen Poole, collected Larson.

“I don’t care if he’s driving a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars,” Hendrick said. “I don’t care, and I told Chevrolet that. If you wreck us, you’re going to get it back. And if you don’t, they’ll run all over you. I’m loyal to Chevrolet, but when somebody runs over us, I expect my guys to hold their ground. I’m not going to ask them to yield just because it’s Chevrolet.”

OPINION: Lightning rod Ross Chastain joins long list of hit-and-run NASCAR racers

Hendrick, whose drivers have won nearly 300 races in the Cup Series since 1984, said he doesn’t know if Chevrolet can “cool it down,” but it’s not the way they operate. NASCAR has gotten involved with driver feuds in the past, but as Hendrick acknowledged, it’s not only one driver upset with Chastain.

Larson declined a radio interview on pit road and did not talk to the media before leaving the racetrack. Ironically, Larson said Saturday he’s not a fighter and doesn’t have a history of confronting other drivers.

“I would think Justin [Marks, Trackhouse Racing team boss] would have a conversation with him,” Hendrick said about who needs to get involved. “Again, if you have a lot of people wanting to pay you back, then it’s hard to win a championship that way. He’s got talent enough to do that, but we don’t want to get knocked out (in the incidents).

“If you look at the points that Larson’s lost because of (incidents with Chastain) and the race here today. I think somewhere in the stages, he was all over Larson. The drivers have to settle that.”

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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