From losing the lead to earning it back with the finish in sight, Ross Chastain etched his name as a first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner after outdueling AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman in an overtime attempt to capture the second annual EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, March 27.
The 29-year-old Chastain from Alva, Florida, led four times for a race-high 31 of 69 over-scheduled laps as he bumped and moved Allmendinger out of the racing groove along with Bowman to reclaim the lead that was briefly taken from him through the final two corners and recorded the long-awaited, first win in NASCAR’s premier series for himself and for Trackhouse Racing in the team’s second season in competition.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, Ryan Blaney claimed his second NASCAR Cup Series pole of the year and the eighth of his career after posting a pole-winning speed at 92,759 mph. Joining him on the front row was Daniel Suarez, who posted a fast qualifying lap at 92.741 mph.
Prior to the event, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger, Erik Jones, Loris Hezemans, Boris Said, Josh Bilicki and Joey Hand dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective machines. In addition, Andy Lally was assessed a pass-through penalty at the start of the event for failing the pre-qualifying technical inspection process three times.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Blaney and Suarez dueled for the top spot through the first two turns until Blaney just managed to peak ahead entering a series of left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 through Turn 10). With the field fanning out before settling in a single-file line for the turns, Suarez then made his move beneath Blaney and took the lead in Turn 11.
Through the 3.41-mile, 20-turn circuit, and when the field returned to the start/finish line, Suarez led the first lap followed by Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Joey Logano. Denny Hamlin was in sixth ahead of rookie Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Alex Bowman and Chase Briscoe.
During the following lap, Loris Hezemans was penalized for cutting the corners through the esses. Meanwhile, Suarez continued to lead by more than a second over Blaney while Reddick, Custer and Hamlin occupied the top five.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Suarez was leading by more than a second over Blaney followed by Reddick, Logano and Cindric while Custer, Alex Bowman, Hamlin, Haley and Ross Chastain were in the top 10. Christopher Bell was in 11th followed by teammate Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe and Kurt Busch while Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher and William Byron occupied the top 20. AJ Allmendinger, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity event in Austin, was in 21st ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, rookie Todd Gilliland and Erik Jones while rookie Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon, Aric Almirola, Kaz Grala and Joey Hand were in the top 30. Michael McDowell was back in 31st ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Josh Bilicki, Cody Ware, Andy Lally, Loris Hezemans and Boris Said, who was also assessed a penalty for cutting the corner.
Five laps later and by the Lap 10 mark, Suarez remained as the leader by nearly seven-tenths of a second over Blaney while third-place Reddick trailed by more than four seconds. Cindric was in fourth while Bowman was in fifth ahead of Logano, Custer, Chastain, Larson and Haley. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch fell all the way back to 28th after spinning his No. 18 Skittles Toyota TRD Camry in Turn 12 following contact with Chase Elliott’s No. 9 LLumar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Another few laps later, pits stops under green commenced as Harvick, LaJoie, Almirola, Hamlin, Joey Hand, Allmendinger, Buescher, Kyle Busch, Truex, Bell, Wallace, Byron, McDowell, Gilliland, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Grala pitted. Chastain, Cindric and Custer also pitted prior to pit road closing for the conclusion of the first stage. During the pit stops, Austin Dillon was penalized for an unrolled tire violation while Gilliland was also penalized for an equipment interference. Meanwhile, Suarez remained as the leader.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 15, Suarez cruised his No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to his first stage victory of the season. Blaney settled in second followed by Bowman, Logano, Larson, Haley, Elliott, Briscoe, Harrison Burton and Cindric.
Under the stage break, some led by Blaney pitted while the rest led by Cindric remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 17 as Cindric and Reddick occupied the front row. At the start, Cindric launched ahead with the top spot through the first turn while Ross Chastain challenged and overtook Reddick for second place. As the field fanned out and scrambled through the first turn, disaster struck for Daniel Suarez as he got hit and spun, thus sustaining a flat left-rear tire as he was left to limp his car back to pit road under a cautious pace. Then as the field navigated through the left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 and 10), Larson spun, but the race proceeded under green as both Larson and Suarez pitted.
Back at the front and through the long straightaway between Turns 11 and 12, Chastain and Cindric dueled dead even for the lead while Reddick lurked behind. As Chastain tried to take the lead through Turn 12, Cindric fought through Turns 13 and 14 as he retained the lead while Reddick challenged Chastain for second. Meanwhile, Hamlin moved his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry into fourth place followed by Custer, Bell, Allmendinger, Byron, Buescher and Truex.
By Lap 20, Cindric was leading by half a second over Chastain while Reddick, Hamlin and Allmendinger were in the top five. Custer was in sixth ahead of Byron, Bell, Truex and Kyle Busch. Meanwhile, McDowell was assessed a drive-through penalty through pit road for cutting a corner while Larson and Suarez were back in 33rd and 39th following their incident.
Five laps later, Cindric stabilized his advantage by six-tenths of a second over Chastain while Allmendinger, Reddick and Hamlin occupied the top five. By then. Cody Ware and Loris Hezemans were penalized for cutting the course.
Nearing the Lap 30 mark and the conclusion of the second stage, another round of pit stops under green commenced as Buescher pitted along with Bell, Truex, Erik Jones, Harvick, Elliott, Bowman, Briscoe, Haley, Joey Hand, Larson, LaJoie, Gilliland and McDowell. Meanwhile, Chastain issued another on-track challenge on Cindric for the lead entering Turn 11. Just as Chastain used the outside lane to overtake Cindric for the lead entering Turn 19, both pitted along with Reddick, Allmendinger, Byron. During the pit stops, LaJoie and Byron were both penalized for speeding on pit road.
Back on track, Hamlin, who came into this weekend in 25th place in the standings, inherited the lead followed by teammate Kyle Busch and Logano
When the second stage concluded on Lap 30, Hamlin notched his first stage victory of the season. Teammate Kyle Busch settled in second ahead of Logano, Blaney, Almirola, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chastain, Cindric and Bubba Wallace.
Under the stage break, some led by Hamlin pitted while the rest led by Team Penske’s Logano and Blaney remained on the track. During the pit stops, Ty Dillon was penalized for improper fueling.
With 36 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start and with the field fanning out, Logano bobbled and locked up the brakes of his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang entering the first turn as he went off the course, which allowed Chastain to rocket back to the lead followed by Allmendinger, Cindric and Reddick while Blaney fell back to fifth.
A lap later, Cindric, who was in third place, spun his No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang off the front nose of Reddick’s No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 10 and was narrowly dodged by the field as the race proceeded under green. In addition, Joey Hand spun in Turn 1 following contact with Almirola. Not long after, however, the caution flew due to debris reported in Turn 11. By then, Chastain was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Allmendinger.
Under caution, names like Logano, Cindric, Stenhouse, Grala, Cody Ware and Joey Hand pitted while the rest led by Chastain remained on the track. During the pit stops, Stenhouse was penalized for speeding on pit road.
With 32 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Chastain fended off Allmendinger through the first turn to retain the lead while the field fanned out entering the second turns and the series of left and right-hand turns. As the field continued to scramble for positions entering Turns 10, 11 and 12, Briscoe moved into third place followed by Reddick and Blaney while Elliott started to make his charge to the front in sixth place.
When the field returned to the start/finish line, Chastain continued to lead by half a second over ex-teammate Allmendinger followed by Briscoe, Reddick and Elliott. Meanwhile, Blaney was in sixth ahead of Custer, Truex, Bowman and Larson as the field continued to duke for positions.
Then with 28 laps remaining, the caution returned when Erik Jones stalled his No. 43 Focus Factor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 11 as he needed a wrecker to return to pit road. Earlier, Christopher Bell pitted and had the hood of his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry up as his crew went to work to diagnose steering issues.
Under caution, the entire field pitted and Chastain exited with the top spot followed by Briscoe, Reddick, Bowman, Allmendinger and Kyle Busch.
Down to the final 25 scheduled laps, the race restarted under green At the start, Chastain dueled with Briscoe and briefly went off the course with Briscoe in Turn 1 until Chastain retained the lead entering Turn 2 and through the series of left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 through 10). Then in Turn 11, Briscoe moved his No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang out in front of Chastain’s No. 1 ONX Homes/iFly Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 until Chastain fought back from Turns 12 to Turn 19. Meanwhile, Logano spun in Turn 12.
Back at the front in Turn 20, both Chastain and Briscoe remained dead even until Briscoe managed to clear Chastain entering the first turn. Not long after, however, the caution returned when the left-rear wheel off of Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 Leidos Toyota TRD Camry came off, resulting with Wallace stopping on track in Turn 17 and needing assistance to return to pit road.
Under caution, some like Logano pitted while the rest led by Briscoe remained on the track.
With 22 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start and with the field fanning out, Briscoe retained the lead through the first turn ahead of Chastain while Allmendinger was in third ahead of Reddick. Then in Turn 11, Chastain made his move and overtook Briscoe for the lead while Allmendinger quickly challenged Briscoe for the runner-up spot.
Under the final 20 scheduled laps, Chastain was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Briscoe while third-place Allmendinger trailed by more than a second. Meanwhile, Reddick and Kyle Busch battled for fourth place until the latter prevailed while Bowman also moved into the top five. Elliott, Cindric, Hamlin and Truex were in the top 10 followed by Larson, Blaney, Harvick, Byron, Custer, McDowell, Austin Dillon, Haley, Almirola and Stenhouse.
A few laps later, Ty Dillon spun in Turn 11 while Boris Said was penalized for cutting the course. Back at the front of the field, Chastain continued to lead by four-tenths of a second over Briscoe, who started to close in on Chastain for the top spot, while third-place Allmendinger trailed by more than a second.
A lap later, Briscoe briefly went off course in Turn 11, which allowed Allmendinger to move into second place while Chastain continued to lead. Bowman remained in fourth place while teammate Elliott was in fifth following an earlier battle with Kyle Busch. In addition, Reddick was back in seventh ahead of Cindric, Blaney and Larson.
Then with 15 laps remaining, the caution flew when Stenhouse’s No. 47 SunnyD Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came to a stop past Turn 11. Prior to the caution, names like Truex, Harvick, Almirola, Custer, LaJoie, Grala, Ty Dillon and Erik Jones pitted.
Under caution, some like Hamlin, Gilliland, Larson, Kurt Busch, Byron, Austin Dillon, Logano, Brad Keselowski and Bilicki pitted while the rest led by Chastain remained on the track.
Down to the final 12 scheduled laps, the race restarted under green. At the start, Briscoe bolted his car beneath Chastain’s in a three-wide bid for the lead while Allmendinger challenged on the outside lane. Chastain, however, fought back as he retained the lead entering the second turn while Reddick rocketed to second place. Then through the series of left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 to 10), Briscoe went off the course and was initially penalized for his maneuver as he blended back in seventh place behind Kyle Busch. After NASCAR deemed that he was forced off the course, however, the penalty was withdrawn.
Back at the front, Chastain remained as the leader over Reddick, Allmendinger and the field that continued to scatter and jostle for positions. Behind, Cindric and Grala spun in Turn 11. While the race remained under green following Cindric’s incident, the caution returned when fluid was reported on the frontstretch.
Under caution, Briscoe pitted from seventh place for four fresh tires along with Harrison Burton and Cindric while the rest led by Chastain remained on the track.
With nine laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start and through the uphill climb to the first turn, Chastain managed to fend off Allmendinger by the end of Turn 2, even running him off the racing groove, to retain the lead while Cole Custer spun. Following the series of left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 through Turn 10), Joey Hand collided into Hamlin in Turn 11, sending Hamlin around. Five turns later, Grala sent Almirola sideways. In spite of all the incidents, the race remained under green.
Back at the front, Chastain was leading by two-tenths of a second over Allmendinger while Reddick was in third place ahead of Elliott and Bowman. Behind, Kyle Busch was in sixth ahead of Blaney, Truex, Bell and McDowell. While Allmendinger kept occupying Chastain’s rear view mirrors to close-quarters racing, Chastain was able to maintain the lead and not let his former teammate overtake him.
Just then, the caution flew with six laps remaining due to Loris Hezemans coming to a stop in Turn 3. At the moment of caution, Chastain had managed to maintain a steady advantage over Allmendinger.
Down to the final three laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Chastain and Allmendinger dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Reddick made a bold three-wide move through the first turn to take the lead. Shortly after, however, the caution returned and the race was sent into overtime due to a wreck that involved Kurt Busch, Larson and Logano in Turn 2.
At the start of the first overtime attempt and with the field fanning out up the hill, Chastain reassumed the lead and Allmendinger moved into second place followed by Bowman while Reddick fell back to fourth. Behind, the field scrambled for positions.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Chastain was leading by nearly a second over Allmendinger while third-place Bowman trailed by more than a second. Through the esses and Turn 11, Chastain maintained the lead despite having Allmendinger and Bowman close in for the lead and the win. Behind, Kyle Busch spun through the esses while the race proceeded under green.
Then in Turn 12, Allmendinger gained a huge run to pull himself behind Chastain’s bumper. After Chastain briefly went wide in Turns 13 and 14, Allmendinger seized an opportunity through Turns 15 and 16 and ran into the rear of Chastain, which sent Chastain wide as Allmendinger took the lead while Bowman challenged Chastain for the runner-up spot.
Through Turns 17 and 18, Chastain bumped Allmendinger as Bowman bolted his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the lead. With Bowman in brief control, Chastain bumped and got Allmendinger loose as he came darting into Bowman and both collided in Turn 19, resulting with Allmendinger spinning and Bowman running off the course. This allowed Chastain to reassume the lead entering Turn 20. With no competition lurking behind, Chastain was able to navigate his way through the final frontstretch and claim the first checkered flag for himself and for Trackhouse Racing owned by Justin Marks and Pitbull in NASCAR’s premier series.
With the victory, Chastain, who came into Austin with three consecutive top-three results, became the 201st different competitor to win a NASCAR Cup Series event along with becoming the third first-time winner and the sixth different winner through the first six scheduled events of the 2022 Cup season. He also became the 39th different competitor to achieve a victory across NASCAR’s top three national touring series (Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Cup) with his last victory occurring at Pocono Raceway in the Truck Series in July 2019. In addition to the driver and organization, the Austin victory produced a first NASCAR win for crew chief Phil Surgen.
Upon returning to the frontstretch for his victorious burnout and salute to the fans, Chastain reignited his trademark victory by smashing a watermelon before being greeted by team owner Justin Marks.
“That’s insane to go up against some of the best with AJ [Allmendinger],” Chastain said on FOX. “I know he’s gonna be upset with me, but we raced hard. Both of us. He owes me one, but when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight…People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe [owner] Justin Marks hired me to drive this car.”
“[The watermelon]’s never tasted sweeter, I gotta tell you,” Chastain added. “I don’t know. I don’t know how we got back by. I was so worried about AJ on the second-to-last restart that I let Tyler [Reddick] drive by both of us. AJ’s so good. I’ve learned so much from him. And then it was like, ‘How do I go beat the guy?’ He taught me so much. I’ve learned so much from so many people…It crossed my mind like we’re not gonna win. We’re on old tires, but I couldn’t think that way. I thought neutral. Chevrolet and everything they do for me, gave me the tools to try to go and execute and we did it.”
In the midst of the chaos, Bowman came home in second place, more than a second behind Chastain, while Allmendinger ended up in 33rd place following his spin.
“We had a really fast Ally Camaro,” Bowman said. “I’ve really been trying to do a better job as a race car driver at these road courses and I felt like from where we started in the weekend, I accomplished that. Proud of [crew chief] Greg [Ives] and all the guys. [I] Hate that we didn’t come away with the win, but happy for Ross getting his first win. It’s been a crap weekend, so I’m ready to get home and see [my] dogs and move on to next weekend. Glad to come away with a second-place finish.”
“At the end of the day, we all gotta look at ourselves in the mirror and if you’re okay with it, you’re okay with it,” Allmendinger said. “Each person’s different. More than anything, proud of Kaulig Racing. The Action Industry Chevy was so fast. I think if we could’ve had just a long run, nobody was gonna touch us. Pit stops were great. Everybody at Kaulig Racing, all the men and women. It’s just lot of sleepless nights for them right now trying to just get these cars to the next race. I was doing everything I could to try to sweep the weekend for them. We were that close. At the end of the day, each person’s gotta make the move that they’re comfortable with and that’s fine. At the end of the day, we know we had a shot to win the race. It’s tough to win a Cup race, so when you put yourself on a position to legitimately run upfront all day and have a shot to win it, it’s a pretty great day. Unfortunately, I needed about two more corners.”
Christopher Bell, who came into Circuit of the Americas in 29th place in the standings and with a best on-track result of 10th place, notched his first top-five result in third place while Elliott and Reddick finished in the top five.
Blaney, Truex, Cindric, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon recorded top-10 results.
There were 13 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 13 laps.
With his fourth-place result, Chase Elliott continues to lead the regular season standings by 13 over Ryan Blaney, 23 over Joey Logano, 25 over Alex Bowman, 28 over Ross Chastain and 33 over William Byron.
1. Ross Chastain, 31 laps led
2. Alex Bowman
3. Christopher Bell
4. Chase Elliott
5. Tyler Reddick, two laps led
6. Ryan Blaney, one lap led
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Austin Cindric, 11 laps led
9. Erik Jones
10. Austin Dillon
11. Kevin Harvick
12. William Byron
13. Michael McDowell
14. Brad Keselowski
15. Justin Haley
16. Todd Gilliland
17. Harrison Burton
18. Denny Hamlin, three laps led, Stage 2 winner
19. Aric Almirola
20. Ty Dillon
21. Chris Buescher
22. Josh Bilicki
23. Cole Custer
24. Daniel Suarez, 15 laps led, Stage 1 winner
25. Kaz Grala
26. Boris Said
27. Cody Ware
28. Kyle Busch
29. Kyle Larson
30. Chase Briscoe, two laps led
31. Joey Logano, two laps led
32. Kurt Busch
33. AJ Allmendinger, one lap down, two laps led
34. Loris Hezemans – OUT, Rear gear
35. Joey Hand – OUT, Suspension
36. Corey LaJoie – OUT, Engine
37. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – OUT, Drivetrain
38. Bubba Wallace – OUT, Suspension
39. Andy Lally – OUT, Suspension
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Richmond Raceway for a 400-mile feature in Richmond, Virginia. The event is scheduled to occur on Sunday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.