By Matt Courson, Staff Writer
HAMPTON, Ga. — The scoring pylon shows Ross Chastain with a second place finish. But that does not accurately reflect the adversity the Trackhouse Racing driver overcame Sunday in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway that now races like Daytona and Talladega.
Chastain started in the 7th position after qualifying was set by a mathematic formula due to rain at the track on Friday. He quickly moved his way up to the front of the field, leading five times for 42 laps early on. A flat right rear tire on lap 96 while leading sent his Chevrolet into the wall, setting the team up for a difficult challenge.
While pitting for repairs, Chastain was issued a penalty for improper fueling. This left the No. 1 team two laps down. Chastain clawed his way back on to the lead lap after multiple cautions allowed him to get back on the lead lap on lap 146 after being the recipient of the lucky dog award.
In the waning laps, Chastain advanced through the top-5 with help from Christopher Bell but was unable to get any help on the final turn to make the move to pass eventual race winner William Byron. The second-place effort marks back-to-back runner up finishes for the Trackhouse Racing driver.
“Our day could have very easily have been last,” Chastain exclaimed. “We could have been the 37th place car. But we made it. I think we did everything we could have. After we blew that tire, we never had control of the race like William did. I’m sure he had his own ups and downs and had to drive by people, but to come back to second is absolutely incredible. I think we did everything right minus (Christopher Bell) turning under the line.
Chastain is still searching for the elusive first Cup Series victory. After spending most of his career in underfunded equipment, Chastain is enjoying running up front and being competitive. “I’m living my dream so I can’t imagine it getting any better,” said Chastain. “But seeing that checkered flag right there and to see William have that win, we’re close.”
Daniel Suarez also finished inside the top-5, marking the first time that Trackhouse Racing had their entire team finish inside the top 5. Team owner Justin Marks exclaimed how proud he was of the organization after the team’s best overall performance to date.
“I’m really, really proud of the team. Regardless of the finishes, just the fight that they had,” said Marks. “Both teams got behind today, with the 1 hitting the wall and going 2 laps down, and the 99 with the penalty and some of the adversity that they had. The fight doesn’t die in this team. Ross and Daniel were very methodically in how they raced, very cautious, and when they went hard at the end, they made all the right moves and got us two cars in the top five. I’m really proud of everyone in the company.
Next up on the Cup Series schedule is Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Chastain will look to improve on his fourth-place effort from when the series last visited in 2021. The event will mark the first road course race with the NextGen car.
Feature photo by Christian Koelle / Kickin’ The Tires