The great disruptor: Ross Chastain wins final race of NASCAR Cup season in Phoenix

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 05: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, places the winner sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Trackhouse Racing burst onto the NASCAR scene just a few short years ago and showed that they would not be a normal NASCAR team.

Co-owned by a Grammy award winning artist and former driver, the team has shaken up the NASCAR landscape, and that continued Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.

Trackhouse driver Ross Chastain staged a dominating performance to win the final race of the season and become the first non-championship eligible driver to win the championship deciding race in a decade.

Chastain led a race high 157 of the 312 laps run to score his fourth career win and his second of 2023. With the win, he denied Ryan Blaney the opportunity to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup series title, and the race. It was the first time since 2013 when Denny Hamlin won at Homestead that a non-playoff driver has won the final race, and the first under NASCAR’s Playoff elimination format which was instituted in 2014.

“We did something else that’s never been done before,” Chastain said. “For everyone on this team, this vision for Trackhouse and what this was was goals like this. They were lofty.”

Much of the attention was on the 4 Championship contenders, Ryan Blaney, Christohper Bell, William Byron and Kyle Larson, but it was Chastain who stole the show.

Chastain took the lead for the first time on lap 117 and finished Stage 1 third. While the Playoff drivers dueled among each other, Chastain stayed near the front of the field being a constant presence for the top spot. He was second in Stage 2 and took the lead for the final time on lap 282 after the race’s fourth and final caution emerging from a furious three wide battle with Playoff drivers Larson and Blaney. While they battled for the second spot, Chastain was able to check out and cross the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Blaney who won the 2023 NASCAR Cup title with his second-place finish.

Larson was third ahead of Byron in fourth.  Chris Buescher who led 18 laps and won Stage 2, rounded out the top five.

Martin Truex Jr. was sixth and Kevin Harvick in his final race as a fulltime driver was seventh.

“I couldn’t think of anything I would want to do more, is to try to be like Kevin Harvick,” Chastain said.” Racing him early in the race was bucket list little kid in me, racing that 2005 game, I drove as the 29 GM Goodwrench car. Now I’m driving a Chevy for GM to Victory Lane, a Camaro.

“I am beside myself that we were able to do that. That last caution we were really tight. It saved us. Phil Surgen and this group at Trackhouse, all of our GM support staff, sim staff, everybody came up with a way to make this thing turn, and we drove off into the sunset.”

Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace rounded out top 10.

For Trackhouse the win was a continuation of the disruptive force they’ve become. Though that isn’t necessarily their intention on the track.

“I think when it comes to on the racetrack, we’re just trying to win,” team owner Justin Marks said. “I mean, I think when I talk about disruption, it’s like how can we be a compelling team in the series, an exciting team in the series, one that people and partners and fans pay attention to.

“Certainly it sort of has organically worked out that we are lucky enough to have these really cool special moments, whether it’s being the first in whatever 10 years to win the season finale as a non-contender in the championship, riding the wall wide open, getting the first Mexican-born race winner in the sport of Cup. It’s really kind of cool that it happens that way.

“At the end of the day we have a great culture in the company, a lot of really, really valuable people that really like working here. When it comes to on-the-racetrack stuff, we try to be fast and try to win. The more we win, the better everything else gets.”

And while Chastain wasn’t in the Championship 4 this season, with the momentum that comes from carrying the win from the final race of the season into 2024, where he could have a shot at being among the Championship 4. And Trackhouse will continue to be a disruptive force.

“It’s just a continuation, and we’re staying here,” Chastain said. “We’re not going away. Like, we’re disruptive on track usually by my driving, but it goes with the disruptiveness of Justin and Pitbull and our leadership team doing things different, having a real presence in Nashville, keeping a presence there on Broadway for something outside of Charlotte and Concord and the Lake Norman area. Our shop’s in Concord, all of our employees are there except for Justin and the brain trust of the marketing side.

“I just love that we’re staying here and we’re continuing to be fast. Our processes are working. We trust ’em and we continue to see it through.”

Race Results

Greg Engle