Turn 2 Blog: Is Ross Chastain really too aggressive? & Who wasn’t rooting for Corey Lajoie?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

Is Ross Chastain really too aggressive?

Richard: This is a question I am mixed on. Everyone says they want drivers to be aggressive but then when they are public opinion condemns them for doing so, especially if they run afoul of one of the popular stars. Ross Chastain is certainly an aggressive driver and he is one that the fans, media, and other competitors have decided to heap their disdain upon.

Yes, Chastain has been in the midst of several mishaps this season and has been at fault in several of those. But at the same time, he is doing what many followers of the sport say they want. In many ways, though, I believe he is deserving of the criticism he is receiving.

On the other hand, I have detected a tone, particularly since NBC took over the coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series, that the media is seeking as many ways as they can to make him into a villain. It seems that every move he makes falls under the immediate scrutiny of the broadcasters whether just or not. TV needs a villain and they seem to be taking every opportunity to create one in Chastain.

The ‘Watermelon Man’ is aggressive and he has caused wrecks this year which has drawn the ire of fellow drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon. But I have to wonder if that criticism would be as sharp if Chastain had not won two races and was second in the points. In other words, I am implying that some jealousy might be rearing its ugly head.

Throughout the history of NASCAR, there have been noteworthy aggressors. Dale Earnhardt, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch would be names that immediately come to mind. I’m not sure Chastain is any more aggressive than those racers but he is doing his thing during the time of social media which compounds everything that happens in society.

Perhaps Chastain could tone it down a bit but I would encourage him to do a better job of picking his spots and not getting involved in mishaps during the early parts of races. But he can’t stray too much from what got him to this point.

Some have criticized Ross Chastain for being too aggressive (Getty Images)

Michael: It’s funny you mentioned how NBC is trying to portray him as a villain. I have noticed that myself. When Fox was covering the races, it was like he was a fresh hero that came in to make the Cup series more entertaining. As soon as NBC takes over, he’s the overly-aggressive driver that needs to cool down his act. Keep in mind, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the two drivers in the booth for NBC, two drivers not known for their aggressive driving.

I think some of Chastain’s moves are a bit aggressive. At the same time, he’s just racing hard in the other situations. He was too aggressive at Atlanta. Drivers have to be aggressive if they want to win races on this level. It’s not like Denny Hamlin or Martin Truex Jr. haven’t roughed up other drivers to win races. It’s the pot calling the kettle black when either of them complain about Chastain. Fans will buy tickets or tune in on TV to see drivers like him mix it up with the others while running up front.

Was there anyone not rooting for Corey LaJoie at the end of the Atlanta race?

Richard: I just can’t imagine how anyone who isn’t a Chase Elliott or perhaps a Martin Truex Jr. fan could not have been rooting for Corey LaJoie late in the day on Sunday. For that underfunded Spire Motorsports car to be in contention for a win as the field was taking the white flag was even more improbable than Michael McDowell and his Front Row Motorsports team winning the Daytona 500.

As media, we are not supposed to root but as races play out, I start thinking in terms of what can happen that will create the best storyline. Corey LaJoie winning a Cup race in a legitimate way and not because of some weird circumstance would have made for a great story.

Corey LaJoie was in contention for a win at Atlanta

Michael: I know there were a lot of people on social media rooting for LaJoie to win that race. Heck, I was too. Nothing against the other drivers. It’s always refreshing to see a fresh face in victory lane. Plus, it would have added more chaos to the playoff puzzle.

One thing the new car has done is allowed the smaller teams to have legitimate chances to win races. I don’t know how long that will last. But it’s fun to watch until the bigger teams begin dominating again.

Could any other track benefit from an Atlanta-like reconfiguration?

Richard: I would guess that everyone who reads this will start shouting Texas Motor Speedway when they read this question. And it would be difficult to disagree with that assessment.

I know many will condemn the changes made to Atlanta Motor Speedway claiming that it is not true to the spirit of racing but anyone who looked at that race objectively would have to agree that it had a very high entertainment value. And after all, that what sports are now about.

Whether it be that same kind of reconfiguration as Atlanta or not, something needs to be done at Texas. The way it is now with all the substances they have applied to the track surface has made parts of the track all but unusable, especially for the IndyCar Series.

Texas would be my pick for a track that could use a makeover.

Michael: Count me as one of those not keen on the Atlanta reconfiguration. Heck, I liked the original configuration over the one used from 1997-2021.

Texas is the most obvious one. That track has always been just okay. But when they took some of the banking out of turns 1 and 2, they made it worse. I don’t think it needs to become another Atlanta clone. Look at how great the racing was at the Coke 600 at Charlotte. But something needs to be done to Texas.


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