NASCAR Cup Series

COTA craziness culminates in Chastain’s first Cup checkered

4 Mins read
Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It only required a mad scramble on the final lap that resulted in plenty of contact and anger, but Ross Chastain can finally call himself a NASCAR Cup Series race winner. A wild run to the finish between him, A.J. Allmendinger, and Alex Bowman ended with all three drivers bumping each other and Allmendinger eventually spinning while Chastain held on to win for the first time in the premier series and on a road course.

Chastain started sixteenth while Ryan Blaney was on the pole. Daniel Suárez, Chastain’s partner at Trackhouse Racing Team, qualified second and dominated the opening stage en route to the win. Blaney, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Justin Haley, Chase Elliott, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, and Austin Cindric rounded out the top ten.

Despite Suárez’s day getting off to a strong start, power steering problems began to plague his #99 car as the stage came to an end. He eventually fell off the pace as his power steering was eliminated, forcing him to fight the car to what would eventually be a twenty-fourth. With Suárez out of the picture, Cindric dominated Stage #2 before pitting which cycled Denny Hamlin into the lead and eventual stage victory. Kyle Busch, Logano, Blaney, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Burton, Chastain, Cindric, and Bubba Wallace followed.

While the first two stages ran caution-free, the incidents necessitating yellow flags ramped up in the final segment with six cautions being called. Combined with a lack of local cautions in NASCAR, the first five were all for debris or single-car stalls or spins too close to the rest of the racing. The sixth and largest came on the penultimate scheduled lap when Logano, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Larson made contact and went into the gravel and wall outside turn one.

In overtime, Saturday’s Xfinity Series winner Allmendinger battled with Chastain and Tyler Reddick. Chastain held the advantage through the first lap while Allmendinger and Bowman gave chase before catching him in the final sector. Allmendinger made his move in turn fifteen and pushed Chastain wide, and Bowman joined the fight with a dive along the inside line two corners later. Allmendinger and Chastain made up the ground before the latter pushed the other into Bowman, causing Allmendinger to spin. As Bowman ran wide to avoid further collision with the spinning Allmendinger, Chastain remained inside and held the lead for the final two straights to score his and Trackhouse’s maiden victories.

In securing the win, Chastain becomes one of thirty-nine drivers with a victory in each of NASCAR’s three national series. He is the seventeenth driver to score his first career Cup win on a road course, a title that is held by three other drivers in the EchoPark Grand Prix field (Allmendinger at Watkins Glen 2014, Elliott at Watkins Glen 2018, and Christopher Bell at Daytona RC 2021).

“To go up against some of the best with A.J., I know he is going to be upset with me, but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one,” Chastain told FOX Sports. “But when it comes to a Cup win, I can’t let that go down without a fight.”

Credit: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Despite the celebratory nature, others were not as thrilled about Chastain’s conduct. Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing team tweeted that Chastain “[h]ad to wreck us to beat us”, to which Trackhouse responded with a “Come on now….” before Kaulig eventually issued congratulations. Had Allmendinger won, he would have become the first driver to reach double-digit national series road course triumphs.

“At the end of the day, each person has to make the move that they’re comfortable with, and that’s fine,” Allmendinger told FOX. “We know we had a shot to win the race. It’s tough to win a Cup race, so when you put yourself in a position to legitimately run up front all day and have a shot to win it, it’s a pretty great day. Unfortunately, we needed about two more corners.”

Chastain was aware of his driving style coming to the finish and acknowledged the impact it would have on his relationship with Allmendinger. The two are close friends and previously Xfinity team-mates at Kaulig in 2020.

“I don’t race anybody any different,” he continued in his post-race press conference. “I’ve cost A.J. a win at Daytona in the Xfinity Series, and he was obviously a quarter mile away from winning here. He has taught me a lot, and I’m sure that our friendship will hurt for this. I feel like I had started to win some of his friendship back, and just being nice to each other when you see each other. It took a while.

“I hate that because I’ve lived through that in my career for twelfth place in Xfinity. I’ve fought, and I’ve roughed people up and gotten into people. I’ve wrecked (Trackhouse owner) Justin Marks. He was going to win Road America in 2016, 2017. I wrecked him and James Davison for no reason. It’s not lost on me that I make some of the same mistakes. It’s just staring down a Cup Series win. I just couldn’t let that go.”

Bowman’s advice for Chastain? Alluding to his own actions following run-ins with Hamlin at Martinsville in 2021 and Busch at Las Vegas a few weeks ago (the two also tangled in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series event) in his interview with FOX’s Bob Pockrass: “Put it on a t-shirt and sell the hell out of it.”

Race results

1161Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet69Running
2548Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
3720Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota69Running
4129Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
548Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet69Running
6112Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord69Running
71719Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota69Running
8102Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord69Running
93043Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
10213Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet69Running
11184Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord69Running
122424William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
132734Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord69Running
14266Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord69Running
15931Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet69Running
162938Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord69Running
171921Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord69Running
18811Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota69Running
192510Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord69Running
203342Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
212217Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord69Running
223477Josh Bilicki*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
23341Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord69Running
24299Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet69Running
253150Kaz Grala*The Money Team RacingChevrolet69Running
263766Boris SaidMBM MotorsportsFord69Running
273551Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord69Running
281518Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota69Running
29135Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet69Running
301414Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord69Running
31622Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord69Running
321145Kurt Busch23XI RacingToyota69Running
332016A.J. Allmendinger*Kaulig RacingChevrolet68Running
343627Loris Hezemans*Team HezebergFord62Rear Gear
353815Joey HandRick Ware RacingFord60Suspension
36327Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet57Engine
372847Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet52Drivetrain
382323Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota44Suspension
393978Andy Lally*Live Fast MotorsportsFord19Suspension
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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