By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – A Stage win ultimately meant the difference after a mistake sent Ross Chastain to the garage late in the Bank of America ROVAL 400.
Opting for Stage points in the second Stage at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, crew chief Phil Surgen kept Chastain’s No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on track. The decision proved crucial as the Trackhouse Racing driver won the Stage and earned 10-points.
With 26 laps to go in the scheduled distance, Chastain tagged the right-side wall off Turn 2. The hit damaged the right rear tow-link. The Alva, FL native limped around the track for another lap, meeting minimum speed and clearing NASCAR‘s Damaged Vehicle Policy.
Chastain then pitted before heading to the garage for repairs. The 29-year-old returned to the track eight laps down on lap 17. He circulated until the checkered flag, finishing 37th. Chastain made the Round of Eight in the NASCAR Playoffs by just five points.
“It all started you know coming in I was just looking for a lap time this weekend and we found that,” Chastain explained. “Then, final round of qualifying I flew off in the tires. We did a good job through Stage 2, playedthe strategy to get up there and win the Stage.
“Hats off to Trackhouse and team Chevy, our strategy group and Phil Surgen to get that stage win is a big part of ultimately what carried us through and then just a mental error there. After I hit the wall there were not a lot of thoughts. My bandwidth was fully maxed out and I was just waiting on the end to figure out if we made it.”
The strategy that resulted in the Stage win came from a mistake in qualifying. In the final round Chastain slid off track in Turn 5. He slammed into the tire wall, forcing his team to make repairs. Chastain dropped to the tail of the field prior to the green flag.
However, the Stage win at the Charlotte Roval is not the only part that saved Chastain’s NASCAR Playoffs bid. The Playoff points from earlier in the season combined with finishes at Talladega Superspeedway and Texas Motor Speedway increased the gap.
“Oh my goodness,” Chastain exclaimed. “It’s just everything, right? From running up front in Talladega, doing what we did in Texas, it’s a testament to the whole season, to running good throughout the entire season.Today I knew when we won the Stage that we were going to start back in the pack. I didn’t expect to make the mistake that I did, but I’m very grateful.”
The watermelon farmer and NASCAR Cup Series driver’s Playoffs dream is years in the making. The journeyman moved from backmarker teams to Chip Ganassi Racing, Kaulig Racing, and Niece Motorsports.
Though, Chastain still didn’t imagine going this far into the NASCAR Playoffs five months ago. Five months ago, he had just earned his second career Cup win at Talladega.
“I couldn’t have imagined (making the Round of Eight) five months ago, but no, five years ago I did not have my opportunity with CGR yet” Chastain reflected. “You go back up to a little over four years ago and I get my opportunity and I’m forever grateful for that and we are still rolling on the way we do things. We do it a little differently and that was the story of our weekend. We did not make it easy on ourselves.”
After the reseeding for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Chastain is now third in points. He is just three points ahead of Christopher Bell in fourth, and six ahead of Ryan Blaney and William Byron, who are tied for fifth.
The Round of Eight starts with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 16 on NBC.
The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.