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Ross Chastain Comes Close at DAYTONA 500

Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric spin coming to the white flag of the DAYTONA 500. (Photo: Jared Bokanoski | The Podium Finish)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Following a collision with rival Alain Prost at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, Formula One legend Ayrton Senna delivered his most iconic quote.

“If you no longer go for a gap that exists,” he said, “you are no longer a racing driver.”

Whether Ross Chastain had this quote in mind or not, he answered the call, shooting underneath William Byron for the lead coming to the white flag. Had it not been for Corey LaJoie giving Austin Cindric a push at the exact moment, the watermelon farmer might have ended Monday as a DAYTONA 500 champion.

However, that is not what happened, as Chastain and Cindric collided and spun, ending the race under caution and relegating Chastain to a 21st place finish.

“I took the gap and I don’t apologize for that,” Chastain said, according to Frontstretch. “I can go to sleep tonight knowing that I took the white flag making the move to win the DAYTONA 500.”

As the race went accident-free for 187 consecutive laps, Chastain bided his time for the opportunity to attack. That moment came on lap 181, when the Busch Light Chevrolet cycled out to the lead after green-flag pit stops and aggressively blocked the Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

Chastain’s blocking, described as “hellacious” by Logano, led to a 23-car wreck on Lap 193, as Alex Bowman pushed Byron, who turned into Keselowski, who missed Chastain’s left-rear by mere centimeters.

On the ensuing restart, the inside line took the lead with Byron, Cindric and LaJoie. Before they had a chance to duke it out amongst themselves, Chastain got a large push from Bowman coming to take the white flag.

In a moment, Chastain will undoubtedly revisit time after time, instead of pushing Byron and setting up a pass in Turns 3 and 4, he went for the win as soon as the opportunity.

Chastain ducked below Byron in a move similar to one Matt Kenseth made on Greg Biffle to win a duel race in 2012. While he had enough momentum to clear the No. 24 car, he quickly lost his hole, as LaJoie gave an aggressive push to Cindric at the same time. The two collided and the caution was thrown as Cindric slid back up the track.

Chastain said Thursday’s big crash involving Byron was in his mind late in the race, but admits he may have waited to pounce if he could do it over.

“We did everything right,” Chastain said. “I was just too aggressive when I turned right, should’ve just waited longer.”

Chastain will enter Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta ranked 17th in the standings.

Harry Loomis is a 23-year old co-managing editor of The Podium Finish. He joined TPF in September 2023, having previously written for his own racing outlet. He graduated from Missouri Western State University in May 2023, earning his degree in Convergent Journalism. At Missouri Western, Loomis became the Sports Director of Griffon Media, becoming a trusted member of the student newspaper and weekly newscasts. A passionate race fan since age six, Loomis is originally from St. Charles, MO, and is a big NHL and MLB fan.

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