NASCAR: Ross Chastain can’t be the ‘villain’ — yet

Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Ross Chastain has embraced his role as the NASCAR Cup Series villain, as he showed last Sunday at Kansas Speedway. But is he really the villain?

No NASCAR Cup Series driver has ruffled more feathers over the last year and a half than Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, who consistently finds himself at the center of controversy on the race track.

Rivals often walk away talking about how “he’s going to get it”, or something along those lines. But instances of drivers actually getting back at him for leaving them no room, making unnecessary contact, or arbitrarily spinning them out have been few and far between.

Last Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, Chastain ran wide in turn four, leaving no room for Legacy Motor Club rookie Noah Gragson, who made contact with the wall and ultimately hampered his chances of a decent finish.

Gragson confronted Chastain after the race and grabbed his fire suit. Failing to listen to Chastain’s advice to “stop”, Gragson proceeded to get punched in the face by Chastain before security intervened.

While it was Chastain who landed the punch, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott told Gragson something that many have long been thinking: “somebody’s got to do it”.

That has been a common theme since the 2022 season.

But Ross Chastain is still quite a bit off from being the NASCAR “villain” that everyone wants him to be.


For one simple reason. He still needs to prove he can win.

Chastain has two career Cup Series victories, both since he joined Trackhouse Racing Team last year. But he hasn’t found victory lane in more than a year, with the more recent of his two trips coming in a superspeedway race at Talladega last April. The other win came after last-lap contact at Circuit of the Americas the month before.

That puts the 30-year-old Alva, Florida native on a 38-race win drought, which is a bit longer than what you might expect for a driver-team duo considered the up-and-coming one to watch in the Cup Series. There are 17 drivers who have won more at a Cup Series race more recently than Chastain has.

So let’s pump the brakes on comparing every NASCAR Cup Series driver who gets another driver’s blood pressure up to Dale Earnhardt.

Not too long ago, the same people comparing Chastain to Earnhardt were the same people comparing Gragson to Earnhardt for some of his actions in Xfinity Series — yes, Xfinity Series — competition.

Can we at least pretend not to overreact?

The makings are there for Chastain to be NASCAR’s next villain. There is no doubt about it. It’s not like he is an also-ran; he is, after all, the points leader and has led more laps than all but two drivers this year, despite having not won a race in almost 13 months.

But he’s not quite there yet.

dark. Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list

Despite having qualified for last year’s Championship 4 and finishing as the runner-up in the championship, there is a lot Ross Chastain still needs to prove before he can truly be considered a “villain” of the NASCAR Cup Series.