Ross Chastain saw Noah Gragson coming for him after the Kansas Speedway race, and he immediately knew things would be ugly.
The controversial driver appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show” Thursday, making his first comments since Sunday, when he and Gragson traded punches and shoves on pit road after the NASCAR Cup Series race.
“When he came down, I saw him coming and stopped the interview I was doing and let him approach, and I could tell by his face he was mad,” Chastain said. “He had the crazy eyes going, and when he grabbed a hold of me, I just tried to stop it. I told him to stop, and I tried to stop both of his arms in case he did swing, and then I had to defend myself, man.”
Chastain defended his right to, well, defend himself after Gragson punched first.
“Look, my dad told me for as long as I can remember, ‘Never punch first. We’re not gonna go fight anybody. We’re not fighters,’” Chastain said. “But if they come down at the race track at 12 years old or 14 years old when I was growing up to our pit, we’re gonna defend ourselves, and we’re allowed to do that. So that’s what went through my mind, and we handled it.”
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The funny thing about the altercation is that Chastain says he and Gragson are friends, and are already “able to laugh about it now.”
“Noah and I have known each other for several years. We train together, we prepare together,” Chastain told McAfee. “We’ve been in separate series for a little bit. Now, we’re both in the Cup Series, exactly where we want to be. So we’re both trying to prove ourselves. We’re both trying to get to where we want to be and stay here in the Cup Series. It’s not easy. There’s only 36 seats. So we’re good.
“We talked on Monday on the phone, and then we were together testing some micro sprint cars Monday night. We worked out together this week. It’s good. It’s done and over with, and we’ve been able to move on and laugh about it now. But we weren’t exactly laughing on Sunday.”
It’s not the first time Chastain has ruffled the feathers of a rival NASCAR competitor, and it won’t be the last. NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty said this week Chastain reminds him of all-time greats such as Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and his father, Richard Petty, in that he’s at the track to win, not make friends.