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NASCAR takeaways: Ross Chastain, Noah Gragson fight following Kansas race
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR takeaways: Ross Chastain, Noah Gragson fight following Kansas race

Published May. 7, 2023 9:00 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It was an epic battle, on and off the track, Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

On the track, two of NASCAR's 75 greatest drivers battled for the win, with Denny Hamlin forcing Kyle Larson into the wall on the final lap to pass him for the victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race on the 1.5-mile oval.

Then after the race, Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson threw punches on pit road as Gragson was irate with the way Chastain raced him.

Takeaways from a thrilling day at Kansas, which featured 37 lead changes, and William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Chastain finishing third, fourth and fifth.


Gragson-Chastain fight

The scene: Gragson walked down pit road to Chastain's car after the race. He had his hands on Chastain's firesuit and was cursing at him, Chastain told him to stop and then Chastain threw a punch. NASCAR security quickly swept in.


Noah Gragson and Ross Chastain met up after the AdventHealth 400 and tempers flared in a heated scuffle.

"There's no talking to the guy," Gragson said. "It sucks that [NASCAR security] get involved. Let us two work it out and finish it off."

Gragson felt that Chastain — who has been in the middle of disputes with several drivers the last two years — had pinched him into the wall and also had raced him dirty a couple of weeks earlier as they battled for the lead at Talladega.

"He just fenced us off of [Turn] 4 [with] 60 laps to go in the race," Gragson said. "I don't get it. ... Nobody confronts the guy. I went down there and grabbed him and showed my displeasure.

"I'm sick and tired of it. The guy just runs into everyone. When you've got guys telling you to go beat his ass, everyone is sick and tired of him but no one has the b---- to go up and get him."

Chastain wouldn't talk about the fight but felt he gave Gragson enough room on the track.

"Tight racing off Turn 4," Chastain said. "I left him one lane exactly. And that was that. ... That wasn't the first time he approached me like that [after a race]."

Hamlin-Larson duel

Hamlin earned his first win of the year as he battled his good friend Larson. Both drivers were named to NASCAR's 75 greatest driver list that it is releasing in conjunction with its 75th anniversary season and its annual "throwback" weekend next week at Darlington.

"Roles reversed, I'm like, dammit, I'm pissed for sure — it's just different," Hamlin said. "Racing is so different now than it used to be. Man, I've certainly lost that way for sure."

Hamlin side-drafted Larson to get him loose and he scrubbed the wall on the final lap.

"I was really loose," Larson said. "I was trying to do what I could to manage it, just was really loose at that end and just he was a little bit better than me there. ... Obviously he was side-drafting really aggressively like you would, but he was like touching me it felt like, and it just had me kind of out of control."

Larson, who is 30 years old, has 21 career Cup wins and one title. The 42-year-old Hamlin has 49 career Cup wins but still seeks his first title.

"Kyle Larson is the most talented race car driver in the world," Hamlin crew chief Chris Gabehart said. "But Denny Hamlin beat him today. What's that say about Denny Hamlin?"

This is what Hamlin says:

"Kyle is just exceptional," Hamlin said. "I think my crew chief called him the greatest driver — that tells you what he thinks about me.

"We have that kind of respect for Kyle. He's going to far exceed my win total. But the time that I'm here, I've got to capitalize on every opportunity."

Wallace finishes fourth

Bubba Wallace, who won in his previous trip to Kansas last September, had a solid day in finishing fourth — improving his spot in the points standings from 21st to 18th.

"We were just missing a little something," Wallace said. "[It was a] good day — we have to keep climbing the ladder. It's been a frustrating start to the season, when you are thinking it is going to be your best start.

"We've got to do a little personal reset, mental reset and come out and fight and claw for everything and put together a solid race. This is our second clean race [this year]."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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