By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
After getting swept up in an accident, Ross Chastain cut through the track on the way to a top-10 finish at Sonoma Raceway.
A late caution in the Toyota / Save Mart 350 put Chastain’s No. 42 Clover Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE just inside the top-10. Two laps after the restart, the Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) driver dove beneath Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Nations Guard Chevrolet. The contact sent LaJoie spinning. In the chain-reaction, Chastain was turned. Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, and Erik Jones also picked up damage in the incident.
When Chastain regained control, instead of returning to the track on the outside of the tire packs that line the inside of turn 11, he cut through the empty space. As the caution waved, the Alva, FL native found himself inside the top-five. NASCAR Cup Series officials did not penalize Chastain, however, nor did they force him to give the positions back.
Chastain held his ground on the restart. Although he slipped out of the top-five, he ran sixth. Two quick cautions at the end of the race pushed NASCAR’s return to Sonoma into overtime. Both Kurt and Kyle Busch snuck by Chastain. The CGR driver held off Denny Hamlin and Bowman on the final lap to take the checkered flag in seventh.
“Whoa, seventh on a dry road course!” exclaimed Chastain. “This No. 42 team is so good; they gave me a Clover Chevy that I can go out and race with the best Cup Series guys; it just seems wild. The pit sequences were crazy; the car is pretty clean. A good day for both the No. 1 and 42 teams. I got to race with the No.1 car a lot there at the end, and only touched a little bit, which is hard to do here. A good teammate day and good building day for CGR.”
Due to engine problems in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway one week ago, both Chastain and his CGR teammate Kurt Busch started 29th and 30th. While Busch managed to climb into the top-10 to earn Stage points in Stage 1, Chastain pitted just before pit road was closed. He repeated the strategy in Stage 2.
The seventh-place finish is Chastain’s third top-10 this season and the fourth of his NASCAR Cup Series career. It is also the 93rd top-10 finish across NASCAR’s three National Series.
The top-10 finish moves Chastain from 21st to 20th in the points standings. He is 84-points behind the playoff cutoff, held by Chris Buescher. Chastain is 357-points behind leader Hamlin.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Fluharty / Harold Hinson Photography