Ross Chastain finished second in the final Cup standings despite vows that paybacks were coming
How many times did we hear during this past NASCAR season that this driver or that driver was going to be on the receiving end of paybacks when the time was right? Drivers who had been wronged at some point during the season, those promises claimed, would dish out revenge at a time when it would hurt the most.
The drivers most often named in this speculation by fans, media, and even other competitors were Cup Series driver Ross Chastain and Xfinity Series pilots Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson. Each had been involved in incidents on various occasions that had done damage to the cars of other competitors and even eliminated those drivers from competition.
Apparently the time when it would hurt the most never came. Chastain not only made it all the way through the NASCAR Playoffs and into the Championship 4 but still had a chance to win the title late in the going in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway. And of course, the driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Chevrolet became a social media darling with his last lap move at the Martinsville Speedway to get himself into that final race with a chance at the championship.
Despite their involvements in incidents that made them enemies to other drivers, including each other, Gibbs and Gragson were the two winningest drivers on the Xfinity Series and were the two drivers who decided the title over the closing laps in Phoenix.
Revenge seekers certainly have a strange way of delivering paybacks.
Yes, there was an instance or two when it might be said that a payback was delivered such as when Denny Hamlin crowded Chastain into the outside wall at Pocono. However, I’m not sure doing so during a mid-summer race at Pocono is when it hurt the most.
Ty Gibbs(54) Noah Gragson(9) decided the Xfinity title despite threats of paybacks(Getty Images)
When Gibbs shoved teammate Brandon Jones into the outside wall and went on to claim the Xfinity win at Martinsville, many claimed that there was no way other drivers would allow him to win a championship. Well, that proved to be wrong as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver went on to win the season finale and the championship.
There are subtle ways in which a driver can interfere with a rival that may go unnoticed by most observers. Pulling into a pit stall in such a way as to make it difficult for the recipient of the payback to get into or out of their own pit stall or messing with a trailing car’s air while on the track or fighting a bit harder than a lapped car should as the offending driver is trying to keep pace with the leaders.
But if any of those methods were actually employed on the drivers mentioned above, they were highly ineffective. The bottom line is that if payback was due, it never actually came in any meaningful way. We’re still waiting for that.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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