Denny Hamlin has himself a Ross Chastain problem, and during the next couple of Cup races, Ross Chastain will probably be having himself a Denny Hamlin problem. Long story short, Ross goofed more than once and now Denny is gunning for him.
Short story long, Chastain first got on Hamlin’s radar in a bad way after their run-in at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway back in early June, during which Chastain drove into Hamlin’s left-rear bumper, sending Hamlin into the outside wall and banging up his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Then, about a month later during the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta, Chastain made contact with Hamlin and spun him out while he was running in fourth place with 15 laps to go. As it stands, Denny is on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, and his 34th-place finish at Gateway and 25th place finish at Atlanta obviously didn’t help things. In a post-race interview at Atlanta, he made it clear that he’s holding Ross at least partially responsible for his recent finishes and, well, the Trackhouse Racing Team driver had better watch his back.
“Things just work themselves out in the end,” Hamlin said. “We certainly aren’t cutting any breaks going forward, but beyond that, it’s just, as a driver, you make decisions — and I talked about those decisions — and eventually, you gotta pay for those decisions that you make and whatever happens in the future happens. But we’re going to be racing each other pretty hard for the rest of the season.”
To put it simply, retaliation is coming. Denny is going to be gunning for Ross, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Or is there?… In all honesty, probably not. Ross is screwed. He’s cruising for a bruising. He’s going to get intentionally wrecked by Denny and likely more than once. BUT, for the sake of fun times and shenanigans, I put on my crisis management hat for a bit and came up with five (completely serious and not at all unrealistic or futile) things that Ross could do to avoid getting grand-slammed, Denny’s style.
He Could FedEx Denny a Bushel of Watermelons
Do watermelons come in a bushel? A crate? A barrel? A Crate & Barrel? In any case, Ross Chastain’s “Melon Man” nickname doesn’t allude to his big brain. The 29-year-old Alva, Florida native used to work as a watermelon farmer before he made it big in NASCAR and is famous for his watermelon-smashing celebrations after winning a race. He still has access to the melons on the family farm, and using Denny’s longtime sponsor as the mea culpa delivery method would be an extra-special touch. Though, I don’t know if Denny would appreciate Ross’s favorite fruit. He strikes me as more of a cantaloupe guy.
He Could Employ Michael Jordan as a Mediator
If anyone knows a thing or two about getting revenge on their rivals, it’s Michael Jordan. All you need to do is watch even just half of The Last Dance to get an idea of MJ’s competitive spitefulness. Now, Hamlin and Jordan have been business partners for only a couple years as the co-owners of 23XI Racing, but their friendship goes way back. Denny clearly understands the importance of having one of the ultimate GOATs in sports history in his corner, and I’m sure he’s gotten a solid amount of advice from Jordan over the years.
All Ross needs to do is have his people reach out to MJ’s people and figure out a way for His Airness to broker a truce between Ross and Denny. Seems easy enough, right?
He Could Pull a John Cusack From Say Anything
This may be a lame idea in your eyes, but I don’t see you coming up with any better ones.
He Could Deny, Deny, Accuse
You can’t spell Denny without “deny” and maybe that’s what Ross needs to do to get inside the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s head. He could insist that he had absolutely nothing to do with the Gateway and Atlanta wrecks, and then when Denny points to the clear and obvious evidence to the contrary, Ross could simply pull a Shaggy. It’s all about the double, triple, and quadruple-down, folks.
Then, to turn things up a notch, Ross could accuse Denny of actually being the one who started the whole thing. He’s actually the one who wrecked himself. This would Denny’s mind in such a pretzel that he would forget why he was even mad with Ross in the first place. Outlandish? Yes. Have crazier things happened? Probably. Hey, I’m trying here folks. Truly.
He Could Wreck Himself
Retaliation averted. You’re welcome.
Ok, ok, just hear me out on this one. This is a big-brain, seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees approach. Obviously, the major downside with this one is that Ross effectively takes himself out of the race. But, he also avoids Denny getting the satisfaction of doing the deed himself. Does this prevent Denny from just wrecking Ross anyway the very next race? No, not it doesn’t.
Yeah, Ross Chastain is really SOL when it comes to Denny Hamlin’s vengeance. Oh well.