Ross Chastain thought he would be upset after coming so close to winning the NASCAR Cup title.
Fast pit stops kept him in contention Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. As Joey Logano dominated the race, leading the most laps, Chastain only had one slow stop, that coming during the final round of green flag stops with less than 65 laps to go.
A caution on lap 269 set up one final round of stops, and Chastain’s crew gave him a flawless stop. From there, with 38 laps to go Chastain was able to get to third. But try as he might he still came up short finishing 1.2 seconds behind winner, and champion, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney.
“The emotions are surprisingly good,” a smiling Chastain said after it was over. “Like I’m not sad. I’m not upset. I honestly thought when we started the playoffs that if we made it as I go through different scenarios, and I do think about what I’m going to think about ahead of time and think about what my thoughts are going to be and what I want them to be, and then I try to evaluate as I go.
“I thought if I — like this scenario, if I lost by a little bit, that I would be really upset, and I’m not. Like I’m so proud and so happy to give our first shot at these playoffs and at racing in the Cup Series with Trackhouse, and we just ran second.”
Chastain seemed genuinely happy with his third-place finish.
“Mr. Penske’s group had us covered all day, and Joey was the best car until the final run,” he said. “Then we had a real shot to race with him. But we didn’t have the balance in our car and the grip in our car all day to be that way.
“So I’m proud of the effort. Nobody got upset, nobody got flustered, we just kept working on our car all day.”
Chastain said he never gave up; never thought he wasn’t in contention all race long.
“I never believed that we were out of it,” he said. “We started 25th and drove to the top 10 quickly, top 15 quickly and then top 10, and kind of raced around there, fought the balance of our car and knew if we got it right, we were going to have a shot.
“On the final pit stop we got it right, fired off the best, together with a good pit stop, together with a good restart, with a good — however many laps we made to the end there, and that was the best we were.”
Chastain said he is satisfied with his final race and his entire season, even if he came home one spot short of the 2022 NASCAR Cup series championship.
“I’m full of gratitude,” he said. “I can’t believe how good I feel. I finished second in the Truck Series at points in 2019 and was crying pulling in the pits off the track and just got it together kind of and then just lost my mind that night, but then had Xfinity and Cup, and it kind of took my mind off it.
“Right now, I just am proud of what we’ve done, and I feel so good. There were no — pulling in, there was just taking an audit on myself. There were no tears, no moment where I had to compose myself. It was just genuine good feeling from inside.
“I’m happy where I’m at. I’m happy with the group I have. I was excited to get out and see my family, see my mom, see my dad and brother and see the whole group we’ve got.
“This is just the beginning. If it all ends today, it’s fine. Really, if I can never race a car again, it’s okay. It was all worth it, and I’m genuinely happy.
“Believe me when I say it, it’s true, because there’s other times where it eats you up as a competitor. But for some reason, it’s not that I’m complacent in second, but I feel good.“
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