Heading into the final lap at Dover, Martin Truex Jr. didn’t have a chance to win the race with the leader too far out in front, but wanted to improve on his fourth position. Ross Chastain wasn’t going to win the race either for the same reason, but wanted to maintain his third-place run and didn’t want anyone to move past him.
A conflict is born.
Actually, it had been brewing as the Nos. 1 and 19 cars found themselves near each other throughout a large portion of the rain-delayed race. In the end, Chastain denied Truex, who proceeded to crash. Afterward, the veteran wasn’t happy and confronted the driver, who many are considering a championship contender in 2022, on pit road.
Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. battle at Dover
Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain became a running joke throughout much of the Fox NASCAR broadcast from Dover because each time the cameras showed one car, they inevitably showed the other. And the 2017 Cup Series champ and the watermelon farmer got plenty of airtime because they ran up front for most of the 400 laps around the one-mile track, including the final stage when they exchanged the lead.
In the final laps, Chastain ran third with Truex Jr. running on his bumper. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made one last attempt to pass the No. 1 car on his outside during the final lap, but once again, the younger driver protected his position and thwarted the No. 19’s effort.
However, Truex spun out this time and slid down into the inside wall. He finished 12th. Chastain finished third.
Chastain explains what happened and accepts blame
Once the race ended, the main storyline was clearly Chase Elliott earning his first win of the 2022 season. But a close second was the final lap incident between Chastain and Truex after the JGR driver paid his younger counterpart a visit on pit road.
After what appeared to be a heated discussion between the pair for almost a minute, including Truex pointing to a specific spot on the track, the veteran walked away. Fox’s Jamie Little caught up with Chastain a few minutes later and asked him specifically about the incident with Truex.
“We were talking about where we were going to go fishing next week,” he joked, before talking about his team’s effort. A few minutes later with a group of reporters, Chastain offered a different response when asked what happened on that final lap.
“Racing him hard. I crowded him up. I should have left him more of a lane,” he admitted, then again joked about a future fishing date with him.
Truex was in no mood to talk after the race. According to Little, the driver skipped the garage and left.
Careers heading in opposite directions
Martin Truex Jr. is understandably frustrated. He hasn’t won a race this year in the new car. He already had a pair of wins at this same point last year. His future at JGR has been in question and the driver has admitted he’ll have to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Conversely, 11 races into the season, Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing are undoubtedly the story of the year. The second-year organization has had both cars run well throughout the season, with the No. 1 driver earning his first two Cup Series wins at COTA and Talladega.
The conflict between Chastain and Truex is bigger than the two drivers. It’s bigger than both of their organizations. It’s representative of a shift in NASCAR and a changing of the guard of sorts. The younger drivers, including Chastain, William Byron, Kyle Larson, the Chases (Elliott and Briscoe) have adapted well to the new car and won all but two races this year.
Who are the only two drivers over age 30 to have won? Truex’s teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. There’s no way that doesn’t increase the pressure on the 41-year-old driver, who won four times last year in the old car.
It’s definitely an interesting time for NASCAR with the shift and provides for some intriguing storylines. Who had a beef between Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain on their bingo card, and the latter was the better of the two cars?