HOMESTEAD, Fla — Ross Chastain didn’t gain much but he also didn’t lose as he entered Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 +18 in the playoff standings and leaves +19 following an impressive runner-up finish in his No. 1 Chevrolet.
“I don’t know. What’s it supposed to feel like? I’ve never been here, and for our Advent Health and Jockey, Moose Fraternity and the Moose, we’ve never been here,” Chastain asked after the race. “For Trackhouse, we’re learning all this together; we’re experiencing this together.
“We’ve got a lot of knowledge in our shop and I’ll lean on a lot of teammates, both in the GM camp and inside our shop of how to approach it, but I’m a racer. We’re just going to race. Go practice as well as we can; we’ll go qualify as best we can. And I’m late all the time, so a grandfather clock might do me a little good for the rest of my life.”
With Kyle Larson’s victory, it means we know that at least two spots will get to the Championship 4 on points and Chastain has a nice advantage heading to the elimination race next Sunday at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. It’s a place to where he finished 5th at this past April and if he can replicate that again next week, then he’ll be the first driver in the history of his format to make his playoff debut and ride that wave all the way to the final round.
For his day in Homestead, he did exactly what he had to do. He started 20th but steadily moved up all afternoon long. He was 14th at the end of the first stage, eighth at the end of Stage 2, then second in the end to score his second straight runner-up and 5th top 7 in the last 7 weeks.
“Not the way you would have scripted it. I feel like we had a top-3 or -4 car all day, all weekend, and a little too tight in qualifying, and come behind that with a driver that chose the complete wrong lane in 3 and 4, against everything I’ve ever trained for and prepared for. Qualified 20th, and it took us all day long.
“We need to get the car turning better from qualifying into the race. We were too tight. Phil Surgen and his whole Kubota team got it turning better, and pit stops were incredible again.
“Our guys were just — they’re just rock stars on pit road, and I’m so glad to go to battle with them.
“At the end of the day, I know we didn’t score a ton of stage points. We put ourselves in position at the end, and just keep executing.
“I almost spun off Turn 2 in front of Daniel, and I had my arms all crossed up and I just took a deep breath down the back, and thought, what can I control here? I can control not spinning out, so let’s go a little slower next time, and had a shot at it.”
Chastain feels like he’s playing with house money now. He was thankful for he competing with Joey Logano for the win last week. Now he’s doing so with Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. this week.
“It’s just a life goal, a career accomplishment. Just to make it to the Cup Series, be here competing with my heroes. I train with Kyle, and he was better than us today. But he ran into the 19, knocked his diffuser flap down and he didn’t have quite as much grip, and we had a shot at it.
“I feel like that no matter what, this season is going to be a success, but in the moments where I hit the wall at the Roval and I realized this could all be gone and we could not transfer, it hurts, and I don’t want that. I’m a racer, and I want the next thing.
“I feel confident in our group and what we’ll take to Martinsville. We ran fifth there in the spring. We just continue to arrive on the scene of the Cup Series, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anybody else.”