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Ross Chastain Hits The Jackpot at Las Vegas

At last, Ross Chastain broke through to NASCAR XFINITY Series Victory Lane at Las Vegas.

At last, Ross Chastain broke through to NASCAR XFINITY Series Victory Lane at Las Vegas.

After the XFINITY Series race two weekends ago at Darlington, Monster Energy Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick essentially questioned whether or not Ross Chastain deserved more chances. After all, the pair collided late in that race battling for the lead. As a result, Harvick’s machine was destroyed while Chastain was out of contention for a victory.

It appears now that the faith that Chip Ganassi put in the former Florida watermelon farmer was well placed.

Chastain, in his second start for Chip Ganassi out of a three-race deal, dominated Saturday’s DC Solar 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  In fact, he won all three stages, leading a career-high 180 of the 200 laps in his 131st start.

“Holy cow! I’m just a watermelon farmer from Florida, I’m not supposed to do that,” Chastain said in the immediate post-race interview with NBC’s Rutledge Wood. “Man, that is a testament that anything in life is possible.”

Justin Allgaier, who led 16 laps and won last weekend’s race at Indianapolis, claimed the Xfinity Series regular season championship with his second-place finish. Despite multiple late race restarts, Allgaier and polesitter Cole Custer, who came home in third place and led three laps, couldn’t find a way to get around Chastain.

Truly, Chastain’s No. 42 car proved to come into its own about 10 to 15 laps into a stint. Furthermore, he was able to hold off Allgaier and Custer or quickly get back around the leading car.

“Ross definitely had a great car today, so hats off to the 42 crew,” said Allgaier in a post-race interview. “Cool to see Ross get the win today. If we couldn’t do it, I was glad that he was able to pull it off. Today was one of those days that we didn’t have the best car, we kept working on it. And the guys did an awesome job to put our Camaro up there, at a shot for a win to see a Camaro go to Victory Lane. To cap this regular season championship off, it’s a big moment.”

Christopher Bell and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five. Ryan Preece, Brandon Jones and Ryan Truex, who started from the back, rallied all the way to finish sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Outside polesitter Austin Cindric came home ninth and Spencer Gallagher rounded out the top-10.

Where have all the cautions gone?

The first two stages saw very few cautions. However, the first yellow flag flew just six laps in when the cars of Michael Annett and Preece came together nearing the start-finish line. Annett’s No. 5 Allstate Parts & Service Group Camaro was knocked out of the race as his car hit the infield grass, punched in the front of his machine.

A rougher wreck happened on lap 66, when Matt Tifft lost the back end of his No. 2 KCMG Camaro coming through Turn 4. Adding insult to injury, Tifft spun down the track right into the path of Ryan Reed. Reed’s No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang hit Tifft’s car with the right front, immediately veering right into the wall and doing very heavy damage to Reed’s car.

Tiftt’s car came to rest with the driver side against the outside wall. Meanwhile, Reed, after pulling the car into the infield and getting out, slumped down to sit up against the side of his ruined machine. Both drivers were cleared and released from the infield care center.

“That was a tough one,” Reed said about the crash. “Knocked the wind out of me pretty bad, right side was all banged up, but I mean, I’m all good. Nothing broken or anything like that, I’ll just be sore tomorrow.”

The tough run to the finish

The cautions began to pick up in the final 110-lap stage. Firstly, Preece, who had been as far as two laps down, spun out of Turn 2 on Lap 125, managing to keep his No. 18 Rheem Toyota Camry off the wall. Then, Vinnie Miller, driver of the No. 01 JAS Expedited Trucking Camaro, spun in the middle of Turn 3 52 laps later, also without damage.

Just six laps later, though, the no-damage streak for the drivers ran out. In this case, Bell and the No. 9 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Camaro of Tyler Reddick came together off Turn 2, forcing Reddick into the No. 60 Ford-sponsored Mustang of Chase Briscoe. That in turn sent Briscoe’s car down into the right front of Sadler’s Camaro, turning the 60 towards the inside wall. Briscoe hit the curved part of the wall where emergency vehicles come out on track with an impact hard enough to lift the Mustang off the ground.

The ensuing restart only caused more chaos. After completing a lap, Reddick smacked the outside wall headed to Turn 1 after clipping Jones. As he spun down the track, he clipped the right-rear of the No. 3 Childress Vineyards Camaro of Shane Lee. That impact sent Lee back up the track, collecting the No. 21 South Point Camaro of teammate Daniel Hemric and sending both into the Turn 1 wall.

That set off one final restart, making it Chastain vs. Allgaier again with six laps left. But once Chastain got clear off Allgaier off Turn 2, he checked out in the DC Solar-sponsored Camaro, taking the checkered flag by 1.629 seconds.


With the regular season complete, this is how the standings shape up.

Allgaier goes into the XFINITY Series playoffs as the points leader with 2,039 points, seven more than Bell. Sadler and Custer each have 2,011, with Reddick, Chastain and Hemric all tallying 2,010.

Jones (2,006), Tifft and Truex (2,003), Cindric (2,001) and Reed (2,000) round out the drivers contending for this year’s XFINITY Series championship.

Mid-20s sports journalist who loves covering and playing sports such as hockey, baseball, football, soccer and basketball. A lifelong Michigan native besides a six-week span where I was a Wyomingite, I've been a racing fan ever since I was three years old and my babysitting cousin fell asleep with a NASCAR race on and I had no way to change the channel. My passion for the sport grew on my first trip to Michigan International Speedway at age eight. If I could do my life differently I'd be driving one of those cars instead of writing about them. Adrian College Class of 2015 graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism.

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