Pre-race favorite Kyle Larson dropped from contention early in Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series race after a Stage 1 crash at Dover Motor Speedway.
Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet made contact with the slower No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford of Brennan Poole on the 81st of 400 laps in the Würth 400. The collision sent Poole’s car sliding into the path of Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy alongside the outside retaining wall in Turns 1 and 2.
Larson continued with significant right-front damage. After meeting minimum speed to clear the Damaged Vehicle Policy clock, Larson took his No. 5 Chevrolet to the garage for further repairs. Larson returned to the race but finished 32nd, 41 laps off the pace.
“Ross flat-out wrecked the lapper, right?” Larson asked his No. 5 crew on the radio after the incident. “Yes, for no reason,” was the team’s reply.
Chastain continued and finished second behind race winner Martin Truex Jr., but not before Larson briefly slowed his pursuit of the leader in the closing laps. Chastain offered an apology to the Rick Ware-owned team in his post-race interview.
“It‘s completely my fault,” Chastain said after his best finish of the season. “I was actually going to follow Brennan past the 3 (car of Austin Dillon) there and he checked up quicker than I thought. Totally my fault. Tomorrow, I‘ll go out to Sonoma to the Skip Barber (Racing School) and when I get home from that, I‘ll go find him and Rick and make some of that right.”
Chastain said “no comment” when asked about Larson holding him up in the closing laps. Larson’s version of events was noncommittal.
“I don’t know. I mean, you can take it for whatever you think it might be,” said Larson, who placed outside the top 30 for the third time in the last four races. “Just a long frustrating day for me and another day where I get caught up in something that’s not my fault.”
Poole’s day ended with terminal damage to the No. 15 Mustang and a 33rd-place result. After a quick evaluation at the infield care center, Poole expressed his frustration, saying that Chastain “probably needs to get his butt whupped.”
“I’m not exactly sure, but I feel like I just got ran over,” added Poole, an Xfinity Series regular making his first Cup Series start of the year. “As soon as he ran into me, I just kind of got shoved into the corner, like way too deep, and then I was just immediately turned around. So, I think it was the No. 1? Go figure. I mean, just a joke … 80-something laps into a race? No reason. I was side-by-side with the No. 3, just got to the outside, and it’s not like I can go anywhere or give him any more room than what I had. He just ran me over. So, it’s kind of pathetic. I don’t know. It seems to be something Ross does a lot recently. Just uncalled for. It was my first time in a new Cup car, and 80 laps out… for what?”
Larson’s teammate Alex Bowman, sitting out Monday’s race with an injury, offered his commentary after the incident.
5 was a rocket, 1 doing 1 things. Gosh I‘m sure he didn‘t mean to. pic.twitter.com/sOT4J1dV8R
— Alex Bowman (@Alex_Bowman) May 1, 2023