NASCAR: Ross Chastain steals victory at Talladega Superspeedway
Ross Chastain surged into the lead as he closed in on the checkered flag Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway to steal his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Chastain simply stayed in line over the final few laps of the GEICO 500 as leader Erik Jones and reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson fought for the win. Larson made his attempt on the final lap, and Jones moved for the defensive block.
Chastain just pointed his Chevrolet straight, slipped past the leaders and won for the second time in five races.
“Holy cow! We didn’t do anything! We just stayed down there!” Chastain screamed over his radio.
The eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida then climbed out of his winning TrackHouse Racing car through the open roof flaps — like a sunroof — and smashed a watermelon from the roof of the Chevy in celebration.
“I’m always the one going to the top early and making the mistake, and there at the end it was like eight to go, and I was like, ‘I’m not going up there again,’ ” Chastain said. “I did that a couple of times today. I was like: ‘I’ll just ride on the bottom. I’m not going to lose the race for us.’
“I have no idea. They just kept going up. They just kept moving out of the way.”
Chastain then bit into a hunk of watermelon but this time asked on Fox Sports whether any seeds had gotten stuck in his beard. He did his entire live television interview after his win at Circuit of the Americas last month with a bit of watermelon rind stuck on his face.
Chastain and William Byron are the only multiple race winners through 10 Cup Series events — a quarter of the season. He’s solidly locked into the playoffs with TrackHouse, a second-year team owned by former driver Justin Marks and Pitbull.
Chastain, in his first season with TrackHouse, never imagined so much success out of the gate.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve wrecked myself so many times and gotten into it with guys,” Chastain said. “Justin Marks and what he laid out for us was ambitious. I had no idea what to expect other than I knew I had my group from last year. [Sponsors are] believing in us. We started the year with a lot of races open [for funding]. We’re almost full now, and it’s because of the vision of Justin Marks.
“We won, dude!”
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 wound up fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, followed by JGR driver Martin Truex Jr. and then finally Jones, who fell all the way to sixth trying to save the win.
“It’s typical here. Been close here so many times,” Jones said. “It just felt good to be up front coming there in that last lap. We were single file. I felt pretty good about it. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed on the bottom and let [Chastain] push me. I didn’t realize they were coming with that much speed.
“Trying to defend on [Larson], you’re too far ahead already. And obviously the defense on [Larson] kind of [opens] the door to [Chastain]. You’re just trying to win the race. You can only see so much that’s going on from the seat and make the best decision you can in the last 1,500 feet.”
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