Ross Chastain made it clear after his mistake on the Charlotte ROVAL that he wasn’t going to take that finish with him when he left the Charlotte Motor Speedway property that night. He was grateful to be a Cup driver and still alive in the fight for this year’s championship and wasn’t going to carry any ill feelings towards a mistake with him to Las Vegas.
He backed those words up. Chastain was a few laps away from a win in Sunday’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Instead, despite his best efforts to hold off Joey Logano on newer tires, he had to relegate the top spot and slide to 2nd in his No. 1 Chevrolet. Still, it was a great result and his 2nd straight top three finish at the 1.5-mile track which sets him up nicely for a potential run to the Championship 4.
“For our Tootsie’s Chevy, that was all we had,” Chastain admitted on Sunday. “There was a clear difference in tires there, so we fully believed that we could hold him off and win the race on the tires we had, and Joey did a good job of getting through the field.
“I don’t know. Just instinct takes over and it’s all camera based. Mike Reynolds is up in my ear from the top and just giving me information and coaching me, but I’m the one making my decisions and my moves.
“You know, I’m sure I can go back and find a few things, and to run the top there and let him get inside of me, I thought I had one more corner to do that, and he just got positioned on me there on the frontstretch, and we were just really tight.”
Chastain though is +18 with 2 races remaining in the Round of 8. With at least one spot going to the Championship 4 on points, to be able to holding the top spot in the standings right now among those that haven’t won this round has him as the one everyone is chasing.
First up is Homestead which is a place that Chastain has never been particularly great at, but most of that was with underfunded teams. He was 17th last year as his best Cup finish. He was third however in the 2020 Xfinity Series race and four for Niece in 2019 in the Truck Series. With Chastain being quick at Darlington this season, he can definitely keep his top spot leaving the South Florida race track on Sunday.
For the first time in Chastain’s career, he shows up at his “home track” Homestead-Miami Speedway as a NASCAR Cup Series race winner.
Chastain earned the first and second career victories of his NASCAR Cup Series career this season at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. And the driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet is the top-ranked Playoff driver without a win in this important Playoff-round. His 12 Top-5 finishes ties him with former series champion Chase Elliott for most this season.
Chastain, who is from Alva, Florida – about a two-and-a-half hour driver northwest from Homestead, concedes this will be a special weekend with so many of his friends and family members in the grandstands this weekend – watching both Chastain on Sunday and his younger brother Chad who competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday.
“I have less nerves than I did a couple years ago when I came here for a Truck championship with Niece Motorsports in 2019,’’ Chastain said. “That was the first time that had ever happened. That was the first time I had ever been in the (NASCAR) Playoffs, made a run and were here fighting for a championship.
“This weekend,” Chastain added, “my brother is running the truck race. Honestly, I get more nervous for that, as odd as that sounds. I’m way more fine with the Cup race and doing everything I need to do with my group. But when I don’t have control, when he’s racing, I just wish I could have control and I don’t. … I’m just up in the grandstands by myself fidgeting.
“Those two things take my mind off how serious what we’re doing with the No. 1 Chevy right now. But it feels good. It feels really good to see the smiles of my family and friends.
Chastain has scored 79 more points than any other driver this season in the eight races at 1.5-mile tracks.
Then it would be to Martinsville to where he placed fifth at this past spring.
“At the end there, I hope I’m racing that guy for a really long time,” Chastain said of Logano. “Like we’ve been saying all year, this is the arrival of Trackhouse, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anybody else.”
If he stays like this, he certainly will be.