By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Ross Chastain drew the ire of Christopher Bell post-race at Richmond Raceway for a late-race incident between Bell and William Byron, though Chastain never actually touched either competitor.
A late-race spin by Tyler Reddick brought out the caution with about 30 laps to go. That setup a restart with 20 laps to go in the Toyota Owners 400. On the restart, Chastain saw a gap and jumped to the inside of Bell. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, already inside of Byron stayed tight to the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Bell’s No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD ultimately clipped Byron, sending the Hendrick Motorsports car spinning. The Toyota Racing driver felt as if he didn’t have room because of Chastain’s No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet and blamed the incident on Chastain.
“The ‘Wrecking Ball’ (Chastain) came in and made us three-wide at the last second, and there wasn’t enough room to be three-wide,” Bell said.
However, after watching the replay, Bell realized that there was more room between him and Chastain. He apologized to Byron in a Tweet. Though he didn’t extend that apology to Chastain, who he initially blamed for the incident in post-race interviews.
— Christopher Bell (@CBellRacing) April 3, 2023
For his part, Chastain never saw Byron’s car. Restarting on the inside behind Bell, the Trackhouse Racing driver focused on improving his position. The tall spoiler and greenhouse of the NASCAR Cup Series cars also hindered Chastain’s ability to see what was ahead of Bell.
Despite the reputation that Chastain has garnered over the past year, he cleanly got to the inside of Bell. When the contact was made between Byron and the Toyota, there was nearly a full car width between Bell and Chastain.
The 2022 Cup Series championship runner-up was more frustrated that Bell never talked to him post-race. This comes after a full week of conversations about the levels of respect on track.
“I never saw the 24, I know I was (at the) bottom of three (wide), but I never saw the 24,” Chastain explained. “(Bell) can say what he wants, like other guys he walks right by me but doesn’t say anything to me. I don’t think I touched anybody. I was just down there on my line. I think we’ve got to say the facts and not opinions.
“I never saw the 24 and I was underneath the 20. I never touched the 24 and I didn’t touch the 20 either. If he’s going to call me a wrecking ball, I don’t understand it. I didn’t touch anybody, got inside of the 20 entering Turn 1, that’s all that I saw.”
Chastain and Bell ultimately finished third and fourth respectively. Byron took the checkered flag in 24th after his spin. He was the final car on the lead lap. Byron is locked into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs via two victories earlier in the season.
Chastain and Bell sit second and third in the points standings, four and 34-points behind leader Alex Bowman respectively. Chastain is currently 95-points above the playoff cutline, held by Chris Buescher. Meanwhile Bell is 65-points above the cutoff line.
Next for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track. The race at ‘Dirt Bristol’ is scheduled for April 9, Easter Sunday, at 7:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.