Ross Chastain became a NASCAR Cup Series winner, the third first-time winner, Sunday in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. The win also was the first for Trackhouse Racing in its second year of competition, the first as a two-car team.
Sunday’s race went into overtime after an incident involving Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson on a lap-45 restart. The ninth and final caution of the race extended the distance an extra lap to 69 laps. Tyler Reddick took the lead from Chastain just before the final caution. But on the final restart for a two-lap run to the checkered flag, Chastain and A.J. Allmendinger retook the top-two positions.
On the final lap, Allmendinger moved Chastain to take the lead, and Alex Bowman joined the race for the win. In retaliation, Chastain made contact with Allmendinger, sending Allmendinger into Bowman, allowing Chastain to retake the lead.
“To go up against some of the best with A.J. — I mean, I know he is going to be upset with me, but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one,” Chastain said. “But when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight. So Justin Marks [team owner], Trackhouse, AdventHealth, the Moose. A million Moose members, they better be celebrating tonight all across the country and the world. Phil Surgen [crew chief], man, he is so good. People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe Justin Marks hired me to drive this car.”
Bowman finished second.
“We had a really fast Ally Chevrolet Camaro, and I have been trying to do a better job as a race car driver at these road courses, and I felt like from where I started the weekend, we accomplished that,” Bowman said. “So thanks to Greg [Ives, crew chief] and all the guys and really happy for Ross in getting his first win. It’s been a crap weekend, so I am ready to get home and see the dogs and move on to next weekend. But glad to come home with a second place finish.”
Allmendinger wound up outside the top-30 after spinning as a result of the last-lap contact.
“This Action Industries Chevy was so fast, and our pit stops were great all day. If we had a long run, nobody was going to touch us,” Allmendinger said. “I’m so proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. All these men and women have had a lot of sleepless nights trying to just get these cars to the next race. I was doing everything I could do to try to sweep the weekend for them. We were that close. 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.”
Christopher Bell finished third, Chase Elliott was fourth and Reddick fifth.
“It was a hard-fought day, that’s for sure,” Bell said. “Losing power steering wasn’t ideal. I picked up an issue early on in the race, and I knew something wasn’t right and, eventually, lost power steering a couple laps later. That wasn’t good, but this 20 group did amazing getting us back out there. The DeWalt Camry was really strong on restarts. I was always able to pick off a couple spots and that’s ultimately how we got our finish.”
Chastain led most of the second half of the race. After Austin Cindric led most of the second 15-lap stage, Chastain passed him for the lead with three laps to go before the end of the stage. Then, both drivers pitted. Denny Hamlin inherited the lead and took the stage-two win, opting to wait until the caution that followed the stage to make his second pit stop.
Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney stayed out after stage two, even though they didn’t pit under green late in the stage. The two Penske drivers, though, lost their positions to Chastain and Allmendinger on the lap-33 restart.
“It was a hot day for sure,” Blaney said. “We got done with the first stage and it was hot. We were close to winning the first stage but I just couldn’t get to [Daniel]Suarez. We ended up fourth in that second stage and that kind of put us back behind the eight ball and make our way through the field. We stayed out on old tires and were able to maintain track position pretty good there at the start of the third stage. Then we lost a bunch of spots on pit road when we had to wait on gas. We drove back up through there and just kind of survived. I thought our car was pretty decent. It is so hard surviving restarts and trying not to get turned. Overall it wasn’t a bad day. We got some stage points, so that is good.”
Allmendinger ran second to Chastain for most of the remainder of the race. Chase Briscoe took second from Allmendinger on pit road during a lap-41 caution for Erik Jones and, then, the lead from Chastain on lap 44. But Chastain retook the lead on lap 47, and Allmendinger moved back into second on lap 53.
Chastain’s Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suarez led the first 15 laps of the race and won the opening stage after starting on the front row and taking the lead from Blaney on lap one. But after his stage win, Suarez spun on lap 18 and returned to pit road with a flat tire.
Blaney finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. was seventh, Cindric eighth, Jones ninth, and Austin Dillon was 10th.
“It was just a battle. We never could get the car where we needed it,” Truex said. “I was definitely worried after practice – I was not feeling too good. Your hands are so tied to these things with these short practices. We just battled all day and fought on and got a decent finish but no stage points, so just a so-so day for this Bass Pro Shops Toyota team.”
ECHOPARK AUTOMOTIVE GRAND PRIX RESULTS