Ross Chastain wrecks after battling Denny Hamlin for late Pocono lead

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Ross Chastain wrecks after battling Denny Hamlin for late Pocono lead
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LONG POND, Pa. — The final caution of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway was brewing well before the green flag ever waved.

And if you ask Ross Chastain, it had been brewing for at least a month.

Denny Hamlin lined up to Chastain’s left on a Lap 143 restart, both on the front row approaching the likely final restart of the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Their heated recent history reached a boiling point at the exit of Turn 1, where Hamlin — a victim of prior Chastain contact — washed high and squeezed Chastain into the outside wall.

Chastain then spun down the Long Pond Straightaway, collecting Kevin Harvick, who sustained heavy damage to the front of his car.

RELATED: Official race results | Standings after Pocono

The Hamlin-Chastain rivalry gained temperature most notably at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in June, where Chastain sent Hamlin into the outside wall. Four races later at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Chastain spun Hamlin exiting Turn 4.

Battling for the lead Sunday at Pocono, Chastain was far from surprised he ended the race in the infield care center.

“No, I had that one coming,” Chastain said. “And if I would have raced smarter two months ago, I probably would have had plenty of room off Turn 1. I’ve realized that for the last month or two, and it’s just too late for that so he paid it back and go onto Indy.”

Chastain was self-deprecating in his post-race race interview at Gateway and offered the same tone Sunday afternoon.

“He’s easily a future Hall-of-Famer in this sport,” Chastain said of Hamlin, “and actions speak louder than words. I think we all knew what was owed to me and today he cashed that in.

“I know that my actions bear consequences, so for a month or two, I’ve known that I’ve stepped over the line and wrecked him so he decided to return it today.”

Hamlin, meanwhile, crossed the finish line first but was disqualified following post-race inspection. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota was not interested in discussing the driver with which he collided.

“Who?” Hamlin asked.

The same could be said for Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart.

“The what car? Which one?” Gabehart asked. “What contact? What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about that.”

Following post-race inspection, Chastain was credited with a 32nd-place finish while Hamlin was relegated to 35th.

Contributing: Staff reports