Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing won the Cup series for the first time on Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas, when Chastain battered and banged his way around the final lap of overtime.
He won his first Cup race in 121 starts after a battle with buddy and former colleague AJ Allmendinger. Chastain won his sixth race with Pitbull’s Trackhouse, which he co-owns.
Ross Chastain persevered in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series race at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in exactly the kind of thrilling final-lap, final-turn high-action finish NASCAR has so often produced on road courses.
The Florida watermelon farmer, who is in his eighth generation, celebrated by spiking a watermelon from the hood of his winning Chevrolet. “Mr. Worldwide” told Justin Marks in a post-race phone conversation that he was doing the same with a bottle of bubbles, according to Trackhouse founder Justin Marks.
“It‘s insane to go up against some of the best and I know he‘s (Allmendinger) going to be upset with me, but we race hard, both of us,” said Chastain, who was runner-up in the last two NASCAR Cup Series races coming to Austin.
“But when it comes to this Cup win, I can‘t let that go down without a fight.”
Chastain led Hendrick Motorsports driver Bowman by 1.331 seconds after grabbing the position in the final corner. Unlike Allmendinger, Bowman was able to recover from the last-lap contact and continue to the checkered flag.
Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing, Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports, and Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing rounded out the top five.
Ryan Blaney, who won the pole position, finished sixth, with Martin Truex Jr, Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, and Austin Dillon filling out the top ten.
After the race, Allmendinger, who was a NASCAR Xfinity Series teammate with Chastain two years ago, was understandably upset. He came in 33rd place.
“We just needed two more corners,” said Allmendinger, who also went door-to-door in a tight on-track battle with Chastain in winning Saturday‘s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at COTA.
“Everybody‘s got to be comfortable with the move they make and look in the mirror, everybody‘s different on what they view, and you can‘t judge a person for that.”
“So, at the end of the day, I‘m just proud of Kaulig Racing for bringing such a fast Action Industry Chevrolet.”
“We started at the back, drove to the front and if we had had a long run (at the end) it would have been game over. Nobody would have touched me.”
Chastain was one of nine leaders in the series’ first road-course test with the Next Gen vehicle, leading 31 of the 69 laps. A Cup road-course record of 30 green-flag passes for the lead was set in this race.
And the 29-year-old Floridian became the 12th driver under the age of 30 to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, and the season’s third first-time winner.
Overtime on the permanent road circuit utilized largely for Formula 1 brought the most aggressive action of a lengthy Sunday of racing. Nine cautions were issued during the race, which lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes.
On the single lap between the eighth and ninth cautions, Tyler Reddick had forced his way to the lead, while Chastain and Allmendinger restarted overtime from second and third. Alex Bowman, who has been chastised for “backing into victories,” was fourth.
Chase Briscoe was a contender until the final 12 laps, when his race broke apart.
He made a bad start and ended up in unexpected traffic when he drove the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford off the track and into the turn, resulting in a NASCAR penalty.
The Cup Series will compete at Richmond Raceway in Virginia on Sunday. Last September, Martin Truex Jr. won the playoff race at Richmond, while Alex Bowman is the defending race winner.