Ross Chastain disappointed despite strong run at Fontana

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Kubota Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2023 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

For the first two-thirds of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet was the clear class of the field.

Chastain led a race-high 91 laps to winner Kyle Busch’s 27 and swept the first two stages of the event. When he crossed the finish line to beat Busch in the second stage, Chastain had a lead of 6.673 seconds.

But Busch’s car improved, and Chastain had to settle for a third-place finish behind the race winner and runner-up Chase Elliott. Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suárez ran fourth as Chevrolet drivers claimed the top four positions.

“He got faster—I don’t know,” Chastain said. “Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right. We kept up with it, and it would just build pretty loose late in the runs. At times, it was enough, and at times, they (Busch) got way better. But I thought our No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet was the steady force.

“To start off the way that we have this year is a total 180 from last year when it was not like this. So, as much as it stings, and as much as it does hurt, hats off to Chevrolet for the top four there and for Trackhouse (on our finishes) at our first crack at big tracks here. That is all we can ask for.”