Ross Chastain ready to put Kansas altercation in rearview
Ross Chastain said in a Thursday interview that he has moved on from Sunday’s post-race altercation between him and Noah Gragson at Kansas Speedway.
The duo found themselves in a post-race scrum that began with Gragson confronting Chastain and grabbing hold of his fire suit and ended after Chastain landed a punch to Gragson’s face. On the latest episode of “The Pat McAfee Show,” Chastain explained where things stand between him and the rookie driver after the fist-to-face confrontation.
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“Noah and I have known each other for several years. We train together, we prepare together,” Chastain said. “We’ve been in separate series for a little bit. Now, we’re both in the Cup Series, exactly where we want to be. So we’re both trying to prove ourselves. We’re both trying to get to where we want to be and stay here in the Cup Series. It’s not easy. There’s only 36 seats. So we’re good.
“We talked on Monday on the phone, and then we were together testing some micro sprint cars Monday night. We worked out together this week. It’s good. It’s done and over with, and we’ve been able to move on and laugh about it now. But we weren’t exactly laughing on Sunday.”
Chastain detailed his surprise at how the situation unfolded in his first public comments since addressing reporters post-race at Kansas. While he wasn’t taken aback by Gragson’s decision to approach him after their near-run-in that saw Gragson contact the outside SAFER barrier exiting Turn 4, Chastain was caught off-guard by Gragson’s intensity.
“When he came down, I saw him coming and stopped the interview I was doing and let him approach, and I could tell by his face he was mad,” Chastain said. “He had the crazy eyes going, and when he grabbed a hold of me, I just tried to stop it. I told him to stop, and I tried to stop both of his arms in case he did swing, and then I had to defend myself, man.”
Swinging first was never Chastain’s first intention, recalling lessons learned from his father. But self-defense, he thought, became a priority.
“Look, my dad told me for as long as I can remember, ‘Never punch first. We’re not gonna go fight anybody. We’re not fighters,\"” Chastain said. “But if they come down at the race track at 12 years old or 14 years old when I was growing up to our pit, we’re gonna defend ourselves, and we’re allowed to do that. So that’s what went through my mind, and we handled it.”
The fiery nature of the confrontation was an exclamation point on the rising tensions not just surrounding Chastain but all of its drivers, a product of the long, grueling schedule that teams face for 38 races a year — 36 of which pay points toward a championship run.
That fight took over the internet on Sunday @RossChastain…#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/cmS9iRK55v
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) May 11, 2023
“We go up against each other every week. We don’t have weeks or months at a time to not see each other and forget about what happened in the last race. Every week, we go back, and we race again,” Chastain said. “So that’s why you see stuff tend to get fired up more because it’s not just one or two games or races a year. So they (NASCAR) didn’t love it. I had to have some tough conversations after Sunday. There was a lot within the team at Trackhouse; there was a lot of tough conversations with NASCAR and with my family, man.
“Look, I don’t want my Meemaw and my Mimi, my grandmothers, to see me fighting. But ultimately, they understand that I had to handle myself, defend myself.”
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Ultimately, one punch was all that landed between Gragson and Chastain, the latter of whom landed the solo right hook before security intervened.
“The two guys you see on the video is their full-time security that travel with us, and they help us handle situations out in public and then also on pit road between each other,” Chastain said. “And they let us talk, and you see them come up in the background here, and once any physical stuff happens, they jump in. So I know Noah — we talked about — he wanted to have a fair shot back. I would like that, too, that way he doesn’t have any more ill will. But he’s good with it, and those guys, they’re professionals and jumped in.”