Ross Chastain added a new moniker after the checkered flag on Sunday at Richmond Raceway — and he doesn’t necessarily agree with its origins.
Shortly after the cars filed down pit road at the end of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race that Kyle Larson won, Christopher Bell was asked to explain a pivotal moment: On a restart with about 20 laps to go, Chastain got on the inside of Bell, and then Bell knocked into the left-rear of William Byron — spinning the 24 car out and immediately spoiling an otherwise great day for Byron.
And Bell explained it as he saw it in the moment.
“The wrecking ball came in and made us three-wide at the last second, and there wasn’t enough room to be three-wide,” Bell said on pit road after notching his fourth-placed finish.
When asked to clarify who he was talking about, Bell did: “The 1 car. The wrecking ball.”
The move not only defined the race’s penultimate restart, but it in some ways will be how the race is remembered in the short term. Byron finished 24th after running in the Top 3 all day.
“I mean, he didn’t do anything wrong,” Bell said. “That’s just his M.O. I feel bad for the 24 because he probably didn’t get the memo that we were going three-wide, because I barely got the memo that we were three-wide. And you know, that’s just the way it always is.”
Bell later took responsibility for the wreck, apologizing to Byron on Twitter and adding that “after watching the replay, I saw there was much more room than what I thought in the heat of the moment.”
But the comments thrusted Chastain in the middle of yet another late-race controversy nonetheless. The TrackHouse Racing star has found himself in a lot of those in his just-over-one-year in the Cup Series. He’s tangled with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. He rode a wall at Martinsville to launch him into the Championship 4 in 2022 — a move that had never been done before and will never be done again.
On Sunday, Chastain made it clear that he didn’t think he was at fault for the move.
“He can say what he wants,” Chastain said. “Like other guys, he walks right by me and doesn’t say anything to me. I don’t think I touched anybody. I was just down there on my line. … I mean, if he’s gonna call me a wrecking ball, I just don’t understand.”
Chastain, who finished third on the day, added: “I didn’t touch anybody, and I got inside of the 20 entering Turn 1. That’s all I saw.”
Byron explained the restart from his vantage point on pit road.
“We definitely were a Top 3 car, which is good for this place, you know?” Byron said. “You just kind of want to be in contention, have a shot. So yeah, I mean, it’s good to have another great car. It sucks to finish in the 20s and hit the wall that hard. That’s never fun. But it is what it is.
“Just looked like the 20 got in there and overcooked my corner. He was put three-wide underneath him. He just blew the corner, and I was the victim.”
This story was initially released April 2, 2023, 9:29 PM.