Ross Chastain wrapped up a perfect race weekend by winning Sunday’s Ally 400 Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway after winning his first career pole position a day earlier.
Ross Chastain, who claimed the pole won the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday night earning his third NASCAR Cup Series victory overall. His first victory of the year and sixth top-five finish make up the playoff-clinching triumph. He started the race as the fourth-placed contender in the points standings.
Chastain drives under Trackhouse Racing, a Nashville-based racing organization run by Justin Marks, a former NASCAR driver and Pitbull, an artist.
The 30-year old had to smash a watermelon first as part of his signature victory celebration and an homage to his family’s multi-generational watermelon farm in rural Alva, Florida, before raising his new guitar.
He performed a lengthy victory burnout in front of the fans to an enthusiastic melon drop and the sold-out Nashville spectators, where his race team owner Justin Marks resides, exploded with excitement.
“This is incredible,” an excited Chastain said. “This is why every little kid out there, anyone in the world, when you get criticized and you’re going to if you’re a competitor, they will try to tear you down and you’ll start believing it and you can’t do that.
“Go to your people. Trust in the process. Read your books and trust in the Big Man’s plan upstairs. And just keep getting up and going to work on it.
“A lot of self-reflection through all this, but I had a group that believed in me and they didn’t let me get down.”
Chastain unquestionably demonstrated his perseverance and trust in the rules of the game. Exceptionally quick pit stops from his Trackhouse Racing crew helped position him for the race lead on the final round of stops of the night. He led early on Sunday and then led late.
It’s the first race victory of 2023 for Chastain, who earlier in the year had the lead in the championship standings for seven weeks. It’s also the first victory of the year and the first pole position for Trackhouse Racing.
A race-best 99 of the 300 laps including the final 34, were led by Chastain who ultimately had to hold off fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin by 0.789 seconds to claim the victory.
All night, Chastain had to contend with backed-up traffic as Tyler Reddick overtook him early in the race after Noah Gragson pushed Chastain aggressively in an effort to avoid being overtaken.
Gragson and Chastain have a history together, and they physically clashed at Kansas Speedway in the first week of May. Reddick, who started the race alongside Chastain on the front row, went on to win Stage 1 after Chastain was unable to easily pass Gragson, but Reddick spun out on pit road during a caution shortly after and ultimately had little bearing on the outcome.
With Truex close behind him in the final laps, Chastain had to once more negotiate traffic and once more drivers held him up to prevent being passed by another car.
Truex was the best of three challengers in a three-car battle before Hamlin seized the lead. Truex gained a commanding lead with a second between him and the next-closest driver after outlasting Chastain and William Byron in a multiple-lap fight. However, successive cautions caused him to lose his comfortable lead.
To the No. 1’s advantage some of that traffic made things challenging for Truex as well, and the “Melon Man” was able to gain some ground in the closing 20 laps.
Only two brief additional warning flags were displayed beyond the two scheduled stage breaks making it a clean race. Stage 1 saw Reddick win for the third time this season, and Stage 2 saw Hamlin win for the fourth time.
With a wobbly pit stop entrance and the beginning of the loss of his right rear tire, Tyler Reddick, who finished second behind Chastain and won the first stage of the race ousted himself from contention.
His loss of the right rear tire on pit road following an uncontrollable spin cost him two laps. He swiftly prompted another caution after the first one when Ryan Blaney’s night ended after Brad Keselowski’s bad restart pushed him head-on into the inner wall.
After finishing in second place, Truex extended his advantage over Chastain and William Byron with Hendrick Motorsports to 18 points in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.
For Chastain, the 1.33-mile Nashville oval has been a good venue. He came in second in 2021 and fifth the previous year. And after capturing the pole position on Saturday for the first time in his career, he felt upbeat heading into the race on Sunday.
Chase Elliott who is the Nashville winner in 2022 came in fourth followed by teammates Kyle Larson and Byron from Hendrick Motorsports. The top ten finishers were Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing, Erik Jones of Legacy Motor Club, Kyle Busch of Richard Childress Racing, and A.J. Allmendinger of Kaulig Racing, who triumphed in the Nashville Xfinity Series race on Saturday.