Trackhouse Racing owner and founder Justin Marks recently admitted the team is “more aggressively handling” how Ross Chastain drives in the NASCAR Cup Series after rival owner Rick Hendrick issued a threat directed at Chastain.
Following the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, which saw his driver William Byron win, Hendrick was asked, “Has Ross Chastain crossed a line?” The question came after Ross wrecked himself and Kyle Larson while battling for the lead on a late race restart.
Hendrick responded, “I think you can ask any driver that he’s wrecked or been involved with him. He doesn’t have to be that aggressive. And I guess at this point in the race maybe you’re super aggressive. You just don’t run people up in the fence.”
“He’s going to make a lot of enemies,” Hendrick continued. “It’s hard to win a championship when you’ve got a lot of paybacks out there.”
The NASCAR Cup Series owner then said, “He’s got so much talent. I think if he just calmed down… There’s a time to race. Dale Earnhardt Sr. told me one time. I won’t name the driver that drove for me, but he said, ‘You know, 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. He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies out here.”
“I mean Kyle now, this is, this one and Dover, Talladega. It’s really getting old with these guys,” he concluded.
When Hendrick was questioned about Chastain racing a Chevrolet, he responded, “I don’t care if he’s driving a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars. 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 do it they’ll run all over you.”
“So I’m loyal to Chevrolet, but when somebody runs over us, I expect my guys to hold their ground and I’m not going to ask them to yield just because of the Chevrolet,” he declared.
When asked how Kyle Larson might handle Chastain’s driving moving forward, Hendrick replied, “Well, I would think Justin would have a conversation and say, ‘We’re gonna. It’s gonna be hard…’ Again, if you have a lot of people wanting to pay you back then it’s hard to win a championship that way. And he’s got talent enough to do that.”
“But we don’t want to get knocked out — if you look at the points that Larson’s lost because of that and the race here today — I think somewhere in the stages he was all over Larson. The drivers have to settle that. Whatever I say to the owners or NASCAR or NASCAR wants to get in it they did with Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt when I was going through all that, and they put a stop to it. And this is just not between two guys,” he finished.
Chastain explained his decision that resulted in the wreck following the race, “Full commit into one. I got really tight, and drove up, and turned myself. I wanted to squeeze hi. I wanted to push him up. We’d been trading back and forth all day and I wanted to push him up for sure, but I didn’t want to turn myself into the well.”
When asked what he thought about how frustrated Larson would be, Chastain replied, “I’m the one standing here talking to you.” He then went on to thank his sponsors.
Marks spoke with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the race and Chastain saying, “Great speed out of the car. Great pit stops all day. Ross drove a great race. He made good decisions in the first and second stages and not racing guys super hard, letting a couple people go, kind of like managing that give and take, and everything. And then it all just kind of fell apart at the end.”
He continued, “Ross clears Kyle and makes that pass and wins the throwback weekend at Darlington seven days after getting into a scuffle in pit road and the guy’s a legend. He’s got the skill to do that, he’s got the ability to do that. The result was just bad. It was just bad for everybody,” Marks elaborated. “It was bad for Hendrick. It was bad for Chevrolet, and it was bad for Trackhouse and Ross as the points leader.”
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) May 15, 2023
“So, you know, this has been my life today. We have addressed it,” Marks said. “We’ve had many conversations with different people today, some difficult conversations. And I think the important message here is that we are a believer in Ross’ talent. That is obvious. He is very fast. But he’s got some things he’s got to clean up.”
“I’ll just be totally honest with you,” Marks detailed. “And we today started the process of more aggressively handling that with our partners, with Ross, and with our team.”
He explained, “Not because necessarily that we’re mad at him, but because there’s so much opportunity here. We’re addressing it. I’m going to take a more active role in it. I love the kid and I love the opportunity that he’s giving to every single person at Trackhouse to be able to put a championship run together. There’s just stuff that needs to be cleaned up and it’s a process he’s gonna have to start going through sooner rather than later.”
Marks concluded, “We are very supportive of him. We’re very supportive of this team and we are addressing it.”
What do you make of Marks’ comments? Do you think Ross Chastain needs to change the way he drives?