TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Ross Chastain took stock of his situation on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway and decided his best strategy was to stay put and make no move to win.
It took him to victory lane.
Chastain stole the win Sunday when leader Erik Jones moved out of his way to defensively block defending NASCAR champion Kyle Larson. He cleared the lane for Chastain, who pointed his Chevrolet straight ahead, passed Jones and earned his second career Cup win of his.
“Holy Cow! We did not do anything! We stay down there!” Chastain yelled into his radio.
Jones controlled the race on the final lap and knew Larson would make a move to win. Larson waited until they were coming out of the final turn and, in hindsight, Jones said he should have let him go and stayed with Chastain on his bumper.
“Looking back, I wish I would have stayed in the background and let (Chastain) push me,” Jones said. “It is what it is. You’re trying to win the race. You can only see how much is going on from the seat. You’re trying to make the best decision you can in the last 1,500 feet.”
Chastain, who earned his first career Cup victory last month at the Circuit of the Americas road course, won for the second time in five races. This was the first in a superspeedway, where he said that he is usually the driver who makes the wrong moves.
“I’m always the one who goes to the top early and makes the mistake and at the end there were like eight to go, and I was like, ‘I’m not going up there again,’” Chastain said. “I did that a couple of times, I was like, ‘I’ll ride on the bottom. I’m not going to lose the race for us.
“I have no idea. They just kept going up. They kept getting out of the way.”
The eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida exited his winning TrackHouse Racing entry through open roof fins, like a sunroof, and smashed a watermelon off the roof of the Chevy to celebrate.
Chastain also bit into a piece of watermelon he picked up off the ground, but this time he asked on Fox Sports if any seeds had gotten stuck in his beard. He did his entire live television interview after his win at Texas last month with a bit of watermelon rind stuck to his face.
Chastain and William Byron are the only multiple race winners in 10 Cup events, a quarter of the season. He is firmly locked in the playoffs with TrackHouse, a sophomore team owned by former driver Justin Marks and Pitbull.
Chastain, in his first season with TrackHouse, never imagined such success from the start.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve gone bankrupt so many times and gotten in trouble with guys,” Chastain said. “Justin Marks and what he brought us was ambitious. He had no idea what to expect other than he knew I had my group from last year. (The sponsors) believe in us. We start the year with a lot of open races.” (for funding) We’re almost full now, and it’s because of Justin Marks’ vision.
“We won, mate!”
Austin Dillon finished second for Richard Childress Racing in a 1-2 sweep for Chevrolet, while Kyle Busch was third in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Larson finished fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, followed by JGR driver Martin Truex Jr. and finally Jones, who dropped to sixth trying to salvage victory. Michael McDowell in eighth was the highest finishing Ford.
“It’s typical here. I’ve been around here a lot of times,” Jones said.
Larson was equally disappointed, believing that Sunday was the first time he had been in contention to win in a super sprint.
“Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve had a legitimate chance to win a home plate race in the Cup Series, so I’m really happy about it,” Larson said. “But when you’re so close, and I was in the exact position I wanted to be in, I didn’t want to lead, I feel like I did a good job with patience and stuff. I just made a little mistake there and it cost me one.”
Roger Penske was on the track looking for a second win in Team Penske’s superspeedway this season, but he saw three of his cars damaged in a crash.
Joey Logano was on the third row on a restart during stage two and wasn’t even going full throttle when Bubba Wallace pulled him off the line and into the outside wall. Logano’s car then fell back onto the field and his teammates Austin Cindric, winner of the Daytona 500, and Harrison Burton, who drives for The Wood Brothers, a Penske affiliate, were among those caught in the crash. eight cars.
In reality, the crash took five of the 16 Ford drivers in the race, with an earlier crash eliminating another two when Chase Briscoe and Chris Buescher were eliminated. The Ford group was the most organized manufacturer in the Daytona 500 season opener and used its strategy to get Cindric into victory lane.
It was the third time in the last four races at Talladega that Logano has crashed, and it was his first DNF of the season.
“They are pushing you from behind. You are pushing the car in front. There’s nothing you can do, and I was the one that got eliminated,” Logano said. “It sucks. It’s Talladega. I don’t know, some people love it. I can’t say yes.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
The Cup Series runs next Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Alex Bowman is the defending winner of the race.
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