Ross Chastain is a runner- up no more. Sunday Chastain had the lead on an overtime restart then took it back after an equally determined AJ Allmendinger took the top spot away on the final lap and charged to his first win in the NASCAR Cup series after a convincing performance on the road course at the Circuit of the Americas.
In his first year with new team Trackhouse Racing, Chastain had led a race high 31 of the 69 laps but five of the races nine cautions came in the last 25 laps slowing the action and forcing Chastain to fight for the win.
And fight he did.
The races final caution came with 2 scheduled laps to go when Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Larson got together exiting Turn 1 on a re-start that came after Loris Hezemans stalled on track. Tyler Reddick was shown with the lead when the caution came out with Chastain second, and Allmendinger third.
As he had done almost all race long, Chastain had the lead on the restart, and coming to the white flag but Allmendinger was able to get by him coming into Turn 11 bringing Alex Bowman with him; Chastain powered back by in the esses as Bowman and Allmendinger went side by side with Chastain on the inside. Allmendinger and Bowman got together in the carousel, Allmendinger spun, and Bowman got clear.
Meanwhile, Chastain was able to hold his line, clear the melee and charge to his first victory over Bowman who held on for second, by 1.331 seconds.
“It’s insane,” Chastain said. “To go up against some of the best with AJ, I mean, I know he is going to be upset with me, but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one.
“But when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight.”
Allmendinger was credited with 33rd place. He had started the day at the back of the field after his team made unapproved adjustments prior to the start.
“At the end of the day each person has to make the move that they’re comfortable with, and that’s fine,” Allmendinger said. “So we’ll — at the end of the day it’s — 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, just we needed about two more corners.”
The win for Chastain comes after finishing second at Phoenix and again last week at Atlanta. The 29-year-old Floridian becomes the 12th consecutive NASCAR Cup Series race winner under the age of 30 and the third first-time winner this season.
He heaped praise on Allmendinger, an accomplished road racer, after it was over.
“AJ is so good,” Chastain said. “I’ve learned so much from him. And it was like how do you go beat the guy? He taught me so much.”
Christopher Bell, who steering issues earlier in the race and had to pit under green finished third; last years winner at COTA Chase Elliott was fourth and Reddick held on for fifth.
“Hate that we can’t come away with a win,” Bowman said. “But happy for Ross getting his first win. It’s been a crap weekend, so I’m ready to get home and see the dogs and move on to next weekend. Glad to come away with a second-place finish.”
The day was a positive one not just for Chastain but his new Trackhouse Racing team which is now six races into their first season. Their second driver, Daniel Suarez led the second most laps on the day, 15, all of those from the start of the race until the end of Stage 1 which he won. A spin on lap 17, two laps after Stage 2 got underway, however left him with a flat tire. He was scored 24th at the end of the day.
Saturday’s pole winner Ryan Blaney was sixth, Martin Truex Jr. seventh, and Austin Cindric who led 11 laps was eighth. Erik Jones and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10.
Denny Hamlin who won Stage 2 was among several drivers who spun at various points during the race, he finished 18th.
The win comes in the first season for Trackhouse Racing, co-owned by Justin Marks and entertainer Pitbull.
“It seemed like a real tall order when I dreamt this thing up,” Marks said. “But every man and woman that’s trusted the vision and committed to Trackhouse and worked so hard owns a piece of this victory.
“I’m so happy for everybody. Everybody believed in this, and I can’t wait for next week.”
NASCAR heads to Virgina and Richmond Raceway next Sunday where Alex Bowman is the defending winner.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Circuit of The Americas
Sunday, March 27, 2022
1. (16) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 69.
2. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 69.
3. (7) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 69.
4. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 69.
5. (4) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 69.
6. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 69.
7. (17) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 69.
8. (10) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 69.
9. (30) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 69.
10. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 69.
11. (18) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 69.
12. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 69.
13. (27) Michael McDowell, Ford, 69.
14. (26) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 69.
15. (9) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 69.
16. (29) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 69.
17. (19) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 69.
18. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 69.
19. (25) Aric Almirola, Ford, 69.
20. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 69.
21. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 69.
22. (34) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 69.
23. (3) Cole Custer, Ford, 69.
24. (2) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 69.
25. (31) Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 69.
26. (37) Boris Said, Ford, 69.
27. (35) Cody Ware, Ford, 69.
28. (15) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 69.
29. (13) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 69.
30. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 69.
31. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 69.
32. (11) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 69.
33. (20) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 68.
34. (36) Loris Hezemans(i), Ford, Rear Gear, 62.
35. (38) Joey Hand, Ford, Suspension, 60.
36. (32) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Engine, 57.
37. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Drivetrain, 52.
38. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Suspension, 44.
39. (39) Andy Lally(i), Ford, Suspension, 19.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 70.253 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 20 Mins, 57 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.331 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 13 laps.
Lead Changes: 13 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Suarez 1-15;R. Blaney 16;A. Cindric # 17-27;D. Hamlin 28-30;J. Logano 31-32;R. Chastain 33-41;A. Allmendinger(i) 42;R. Chastain 43-44;C. Briscoe 45-46;R. Chastain 47-64;A. Allmendinger(i) 65;T. Reddick 66-67;R. Chastain 68-69.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ross Chastain 4 times for 31 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 15 laps; Austin Cindric # 1 time for 11 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 3 laps; Chase Briscoe 1 time for 2 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 2 times for 2 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 2 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 99,12,48,22,5,31,9,14,21,2
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,18,22,12,10,3,21,1,2,23
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