Jeff Burton didn’t hold back while examining the heat between Ross Chastain and Rick Hendrick.
The Trackhouse Racing wheelman has become public enemy No. 1 over at Hendrick Motorsports over the course of the 2023 season. That hit a peak on Sunday, when Chastain got into it with Hendrick’s darling Kyle Larson at Darlington, costing them both a chance at a win.
Rick Hendrick didn’t take too kind to Chastain perceivably taking out his driver. In the post-race press conference, the team owner made some fascinating comments about Chastain.
“He [Chastain] doesn’t have to be that aggressive,” Hendrick said when asked, via Jeff Gluck of The Athletic. “You just don’t run people up in the fence. … He’s got talent, but he’s making a lot of enemies out here. It’s really getting old with these guys.
“… If it doesn’t change, he’s [Chastain] going to have a hard time winning a championship.”
While Hendrick is understandably upset, Burton believes none of this should shock anyone. This is simply the type of driver Chastain is, and it’s always been that way.
Jeff Burton on Ross Chastain’s reckless driving: ‘This is who Ross Chastain is. He’s going to own it.’
“There’s been 13 races this year, and Ross Chastain has been incidents in the last nine,” started the NBC Sports analyst. “I mean, it is what it is. But guys, this is who Ross Chastain is. If you go back and watch Ross Chastain race through his career, and you talk to the competitors he’s raced with, none of them are surprised. This is who Ross Chastain is. He’s going to own it.
“I think, if you go back last year, we watched, there was a portion of the year where he tried to relax. He tried to not put himself in these situations, and he ended up causing wrecks anyway. Because he was trying to be super conservative. Justin Marks, the car owner. They sat down and said, ‘Stop it. Just go back to who you are. Go back to doing what you were doing.’ That’s what Justin Marks — that’s what he’s doing. This is Ross Chastain. The evidence is in. Why is it going to change?”
While Chastain’s driving style hasn’t gone over well with his opponents, fans are taking a liking to him. Many have likened him to drivers like Dale Earnhardt Sr. as his popularity is catapulting in the grandstands.
Ross Chastain will continue to be as polarizing of a driver as we’ve seen in recent years. Whether he changes his tune remains to be seen, but Jeff Burton doesn’t foresee that happening.