William Byron Secures His First Victory Of The Season
It was a long and tough road, but Ross Chastain has finally secured his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory last weekend when he edged past A.J. Allmendinger and Alex Bowman on the final lap to join the list of the recently crowned firs-time winners. But the success did not come easy for the Florida native.
Chastain looked like the best driver in the field for most of the day, and even though he looked set for a strong finish, Chastain still had to survive an overtime restart and bumper tag with Allmendinger to claim a spectacular victory at the Echopark Texas Grand Prix.
Still, Chastain proved his quality 10-times over on the day. He muscled his way around Reddick in the first lap of the OT, and even after he got bumped by Allmendinger, Chastain got his revenge on Turn 19, sending Allmendinger into the side of Bowman and spinning into the gravel, allowing him to drive to the finish line.
The chaotic yet well-deserved win for Chastain was a historical one. It marked the first NASCAR Cup Series victory of his career and the first for Trackhouse Racing and the owners, Pitbull and Justin Marks.
“That’s insane. To go up against some of the best with AJ, I know he’s gonna be upset with me, but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one, but when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight,” said Chastain.
“People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe Justin Marks hired me to drive this car.”
Chastain couldn’t contain his emotions following his achievement in Texas, having finally achieved the career-long goal, which he was denied time and time again, having to perform in lesser equipment, before he was given a shot with the Trackhouse.
One Was Bound To Fall
We didn’t know how the race was going to finish until the very end, but once it was clear that it would come down to Chastain and Allmendinger, we could have guessed that one of the two likely won’t finish the race – as it’s usually the case when two aggressive drivers go head-to-head.
When Allmendinger bumped into Chastain, it was evident that we were in for an exciting ending to the race. At first, it seemed like Allmendinger would take home the spoils, but he went from leading to spinning into the gravel in the penultimate corner, opening up the way for Chastain to drive into the sunset.
Although the ending might seem controversial to some, there are different rules that apply to racing, as it’s accepted that laying the bumper is fair play if you have been bumped before, so even though Chastian did eliminate Allmendinger from the race, it could have easily been him who would finish in the gravel the first time Allmendinger collided with him.
Still, that likely won’t help Allmendinger feel better about the race in which he held the lead but ended up in 33rd after he had previously locked in a disappointing 20th place finish in Phoenix.
Moreover, had Allmendinger won, it would have marked the first time he would have won both the NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series races in one weekend, having already celebrated on COTA a day prior.
Time To Start Showing Respect To Trackhouse
With Chastain’s victory, Ttrackhouse Racing now certainly deserve serious recognition and the tag of a NASCAR Cup Series powerhouse.
At COTA, Trackhourse led 46 laps out of 69, which is seriously impressive, and on the topic of laps led, Chastain led 31, while his teammate, Daniel Suarez, led for the entirety of Stage 1, which translates to 15 laps.
Most notably, we saw a very solid performance from Suarez, who proved that he has the machine to challenge for the win and even pass Chastain.
Unfortunately, the alternate pit strategies put him back in the traffic at the start of Stage 2, and the contact with LajJoie saw Suarez spin, leaving him with a flat tire.
He was able to make up some lost time by the end of the race, but then he suffered power steering issues and was unable to compete for top spots, ending in 24th.
However, despite his less-than-convincing ending to the season, Suarez showed some serious quality and is definitely someone we should keep an eye on going forward – as we should on the whole Trackhouse team.
Things You Might Have Missed
Christopher Bell finished the race in third, marking his season-best finish after he got stripped from a silver medal in Atlanta.
Bell might have even won the race, but he lost a lap after his team had to address a steering issue, yet he still made up for the lost time and came in third.
Denny Hamlin could only manage an 18th-place finish, but it was a solid performance for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series bronze medallist, who has yet to find any traction this NASCAR season.
Austin Cindric ended the race in eighth place, marking his first top-10 finish since he took the NASCAR Cup Series by surprise by winning the Daytona 500.
Michael McDowell also claimed his best finish since Daytona by placing 13th, marking his second top-20 of the season.
Another driver who flew under the radar is Todd Gilliland, who claimed his career-best (16th) finish in Texas and his third top-20 across the six races of the 2022 season.
Another Cup Series rookie, Harrison Burton, placed in 17th and was the third and final rookie to place inside the top-20.
The NASCAR Cup Series continues on Sunday, April 3, with the Toyota Owners, at Richmond Raceway, in Richmond, Virginia.
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**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.