Chastain executes final lap pass for second Cup career triumph at Talladega

From losing a lap to the leaders to rallying his way back to the front and having the seas parting way for him with the finish in sight, Ross Chastain overtook Erik Jones at the tri-oval on the final lap to win the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 24.

The 29-year-old Chastain from Alva, Florida, was penalized for speeding on pit road during an exchange of green-flag pit stops nearing the Lap 40 mark, but he was able to cycle his way back on the lead lap following the first stage’s conclusion. From there, he muscled his way to the front and remained within sight of the lead pack. Then on the final lap and entering the tri-oval, Chastain was lined up in third place while awaiting his moment to strike. With the field fanning out and initial leader Erik Jones trying to prevent a run from Kyle Larson in the outside lane, Chastain had the inside lane to himself. He seized the opportunity to snatch the lead and emerged victorious for the second time in his NASCAR Cup Series career. 

With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, Christopher Bell notched his second Cup Series pole position of the season and of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 180.928 mph in 52.927 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate Martin Truex Jr., who posted a fast lap at 180.652 mph in 53.008 seconds.

Prior to the event, Landon Cassill was forced to serve a pass-through penalty through pit road at the start due to his No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry failing pre-qualifying technical inspection three times. Noah Gragson, the winner of Saturday’s Xfinity event at Talladega, also dropped to the rear of the field due to an unapproved adjustment to his No. 62 Beard Motorsports entry.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Bell moved his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry in front of teammate Truex’s No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry as he maintained the lead through the first two turns while Daniel Suarez charged as the lead competitor on the outside lane. 

When the field returned to the start/finish line, Bell led the first lap. Suarez, however, fought back on the outside lane in his No. 99 Tootsies Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with drafting help from Kurt Busch, but Bell maintained his line on the inside lane. Suarez, though, was able to lead the second lap as he and Bell were locked dead even for the lead. By then, the entire field was stacked up through two long double lines.

Through the first 10 laps of the event and with the field fanning out to multiple lanes, Suarez received a draft from William Byron to overtake Bell for the lead followed by Truex, Kurt Busch, Daniel Hemric, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano. By then, Bell had led seven of the first 10 laps while Suarez led the remaining three. In addition, Cassill, who served his pass-through penalty at the start, was lapped by the field. 

By Lap 20, eight competitors broke away from the pack fanning out to two packed lanes as Suarez continued to lead ahead of Byron, Bell, Truex, Hemric, Larson, Haley and Kurt Busch while Ty Dillon and Erik Jones were in the top 10.

Five laps later, the top-10 competitors led by Suarez had broken away from the rest of the pack stacked through two lanes while 11th-place Kevin Harvick initiated a charge as the lead competitor on the outside lane. By then, all but one of the 39 starters were separated by less than three seconds.

By Lap 30, Suarez continued to lead on the inside lane ahead of Byron, Bell and Truex while Chase Elliott, who was in fifth ahead of Hemric, mounted a charge on the outside lane with drafting help from Kevin Harvick and the field.

On Lap 32, Reddick pitted as the crew lifted the hood up on the No. 8 Bet MGM Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 due to a mechanical issue.

By Lap 34, the Ford competitors peeled off the track to pit under green. During the Ford pit stops, Keselowski was penalized for speeding on pit road. In addition, Cody Ware spun his No. 51 Nurtec ODT Ford Mustang while entering pit road, but he was able to proceed without drawing a caution. Soon after, the Toyota competitors along with Chevrolet competitor Alex Bowman pitted. During the Toyota pit stops, Hamlin slid his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry through his pit box. By the end of Lap 36, the Chevrolet competitors pitted. During the Chevrolet pit stops, Ross Chastain was penalized for speeding while exiting pit road. 

At the Lap 40 mark and with the pit stops complete, Larson cycled his way to the lead followed by teammates Byron and Elliott while Erik Jones and Hemric were in the top five. Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Logano, Ty Dillon, rookie Harrison Burton, Bubba Wallace, Bell, Truex, Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola. By then, Suarez had fallen back to 23rd while Reddick retired in the garage.

Through the first 50 scheduled laps, Larson continued to lead ahead of teammates Byron and Elliott while Wallace mounted a charge on the outside lane in fourth place. By then, Keselowski was lapped by the field.

Soon after, Wallace drew himself into a side-by-side against Larson for the lead through the backstretch. Despite the field having to fan out while lapping Chastain and Michael McDowell, they gathered themselves through the tri-oval as Wallace received a push from Bell to briefly lead until Larson fought back on the inside lane. By Lap 53, Wallace led a lap for himself and had both lanes in control through the backstretch until Larson mounted another challenge on the inside lane with drafting help from teammate Byron.

With four laps remaining in the first stage and while the field fanned out, the first caution flew when Hemric fell off the pace and was bumped sideways by Austin Dillon through Turns 3 and 4 as he radioed engine issues to his No. 16 Majestic Steel Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. While trying to straighten his car below the apron, Hemric then shot back across the track and made heavy contact against Chris Buescher and Chase Briscoe, whose No. 14 Mahindra Ford Mustang burst into flames. At the moment of caution, Chastain received the free pass to return on the lead lap due to being the first competitor that was scored a lap behind which left Keselowski still trapped a lap behind.

The three-car wreck between Turns 3 and 4 was enough for the first stage scheduled on Lap 60 to conclude under caution as Bubba Wallace claimed his first stage victory of the season and third at Talladega. Larson settled in second followed by Bell, Byron, Truex, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Bowman and Stenhouse.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Larson reassumed the lead following his pit service followed by Byron, Elliott, Erik Jones, Truex and Wallace. During the pit stops, Kyle Busch was penalized for dragging his gas can out of his pit box.

The second stage started on Lap 64 as teammates Larson and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Larson moved in front of teammates Byron and Elliott to maintain the lead on the inside lane while Erik Jones was the lead competitor on the outside lane as he received a push from Wallace to battle and overtake Larson for the lead when the field returned to the start/finish line.

By Lap 67, Erik Jones was out in front while Wallace and Larson battled for second place. Soon after, Larson challenged for the lead on the inside lane while Jones maintained his ground on the outside lane. 

At the Lap 75 mark, Erik Jones’ No. 43 Air Force Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was still leading by 0.013 seconds over Wallace’s No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota TRD Camry while Larson, Kurt Busch, Byron, Harvick, Elliott, Truex, Bowman and Logano were scored in the top 10.

Six laps later, the caution returned when Greg Biffle fell off the pace with no power and was unable to limp his No. 44 Morehouse College Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 back to pit road as he stalled in Turn 4. At the moment of caution, Keselowski received the free pass to return to the lead lap due to being the first competitor scored a lap behind.

Under caution, the field returned to pit road for service, mainly for fuel, and Byron emerged with the lead followed by Truex, Elliott, Larson, Blaney and Erik Jones.

On Lap 85, the race proceeded under green as Byron maintained the lead ahead of the packed field. Shortly after, however, the caution returned when BJ McLeod spun in Turn 2 as the right-rear wheel of McLeod’s car came out.

Another four laps later, the race restarted under green. The caution, however, followed suit for a multi-car wreck that sparked due to a stack-up at the front and resulted in Logano receiving a bump from Wallace that turned Logano into the outside wall in Turn 1. With Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang then slowly creeping towards the straightaway amid the ongoing field, he was hit by Ty Dillon as rookies Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland along with Suarez, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer and Stenhouse were sent spinning and wrecking through Turn 1. 

By Lap 97, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Byron and Truex dueled with Truex receiving a draft from former teammate Erik Jones while Byron had teammates Elliott and Larson lined up behind him along with Kurt Busch. 

At the Lap 100 mark, Byron and Truex dueled for the top spot with Elliott, Erik Jones and Larson scored in the top five while Blaney, Kurt Busch, Wallace, Bowman and Harvick were in the top 10. By then, 24 of 39 starters were scored on the lead lap.

Six laps later, the caution flew when Cody Ware got turned by David Ragan past the start/finish line. Under caution, some like Erik Jones, Wallace, Blaney, Harvick, Cindric, Bell, Keselowski, Corey LaJoie and Gragson pitted while the rest led by Byron remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Wallace made an extra pit stop to address a potential loose wheel on his car.

With 10 laps remaining in the second stage, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Byron maintained the lead as all four Hendrick Motorsports competitors were lined up from first through fourth on the inside lane while Truex was in fifth.

As the field settled in a long single-file line with five laps remaining in the second stage, Byron continued to lead ahead of his Hendrick teammates while Truex, Chastain, Almirola, Erik Jones, Cindric and Harvick were in the top 10. By then, the Busch brothers along with Keselowski, Wallace, LaJoie, Blaney, Bell, Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Justin Haley were in the top 20.

At the start of the final lap of the second stage, the field fanned out to multiple lanes as Kyle Busch mounted a charge on the outside lane. Byron, however, was able to maintain the lead ahead of the fanned field to claim his third stage victory of the season on Lap 120. Teammates Elliott and Larson followed pursuit along with Truex, Bowman, Kyle Busch, Almirola, Erik Jones, Chastain and Kurt Busch.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Erik Jones emerged with the lead following a two-tire stop followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, Blaney, Keselowski and Wallace.

With 63 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, Kyle Busch gained a brief advantage through the first two turns on the outside lane before Harvick gave Erik Jones a huge push for Jones to assume the lead through Turns 3 and 4. 

During the following lap, Ryan Blaney gave Kyle Busch a big draft that enabled Busch to challenge Jones for the top spot before Busch prevailed when he returned to the start/finish line. Then through the backstretch, Busch moved in front of Jones to maintain the lead ahead of Jones on the inside lane until Blaney received drafting support from Wallace to mount his challenge for the lead. 

With 58 laps remaining, Blaney and Wallace managed to pull themselves in front of Kyle Busch on the inside lane as Blaney maintained the lead, By then, a long single-file line was being formulated on the inside lane while Cindric lost the draft and was losing spots on the track. 

Down to the final 50 laps of the event and with the field remaining in a long single-file line, Blaney was leading ahead of Wallace, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Harvick, Keselowski, Bell, Larson, Elliott and Byron while Chastain, McDowell, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Truex, David Ragan, LaJoie, Kurt Busch, Haley and Landon Cassill were in the top 20. By then, 25 of 39 starters were scored on the lead lap.

Ten laps later, Blaney maintained the lead ahead of Wallace, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Harvick and the long line of competitors on the inside line.

Shortly after, a group of competitors led by Chastain moved to the outside lane and started to gain a run to the front with Chastain scored in ninth place. During the following lap, he moved up to seventh while Blaney continued to lead on the inside lane. 

Then with 37 laps remaining, Wallace made a move to the outside of Blaney and he muscled his way into the lead followed by Kyle Busch and Erik Jones. Jones, however, made his move during the following lap beneath Wallace to take the lead while Kyle Busch, who had a momentum going on the outside lane, got shuffled out of line. In addition, Blaney moved into second followed by Harvick, Wallace, Keselowski and Chastain.

With 33 laps remaining, Wallace received a draft from Chastain to reassume the lead over Erik Jones as he was placed on defense mode through both lanes.

Three laps later, Wallace and Erik Jones were locked in a tight side-by-side battle for the lead as Wallace moved up the outside lane in front of Chastain and Hamlin while Jones had drafting support from Blaney and Harvick.

Another lap later, a handful of competitors led by Blaney peeled off the track to pit under green. During the next lap, another wave of competitors led by Wallace pitted while another wave led by LaJoie pitted during the next lap. During the pit stops, Keselowski was busted with his second pit road speeding penalty. In addition, contact between Gragson and Kyle Busch sent Bell spinning towards the inside wall on the frontstretch. The race, however, proceeded under green as Bell was able to continue without sustaining any significant damage.

Back on the track with less than 25 laps remaining, Hamlin cycled his way into the lead followed by Larson, Erik Jones, Byron and Chastain.

With 20 laps remaining and the field settled in a long single-file line on the inside lane, Hamlin was leading ahead of Larson, Erik Jones, Byron and Chastain while Haley, Kurt Busch, Truex, LaJoie and Austin Dillon were in the top 10. Wallace was back in 11th ahead of Elliott, Blaney, Harvick, Almirola, Bowman, McDowell, Cindric, Kyle Busch and Cassill. 

Three laps later, Larson moved into the lead while Hamlin, who briefly lost the draft, fell back to sixth place in an effort to save fuel. By then, Keselowski was lapped by the field.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event and with the field fanning out and stacked up to multiple lanes, Larson was leading by a hair over Chastain followed by Haley, Erik Jones, Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Byron, Truex, Elliott and Blaney. By then, Bell was lapped by the field.

With seven laps remaining, Erik Jones gained a huge draft from Byron and Elliott on the outside lane to move into third place behind Larson and Chastain as he made his bid for the lead. As the field remained in a tight, deadlock through double lanes, Jones peaked ahead with drafting help from Byron while Larson had drafting support from Chastain on the inside lane. 

With five laps remaining, Jones maintained the lead before Larson fought back on the inside lane as the intensity towards the pack intensified.

Down to the final two laps, Jones remained as the leader ahead of Larson, Chastain, Kurt Busch and Byron, all of whom were briefly ahead of the pack in a single-file line. By then, Hamlin pitted under green after running out of fuel.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Jones continued to lead a long parade of competitors with some moving up to the outside lane through the backstretch. Then in Turns 3 and 4, Kurt Busch, who was in fourth place, bolted to the outside lane while waiting to gain a draft from Truex and Wallace. 

Then through the tri-oval, Larson tried to make a move to the outside of Jones, but he made contact with Kurt Busch that sent Busch’s No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota TRD Camry hard against the tri-oval outside wall as he collected teammate, Wallace. In the process, Jones, who moved up the outside lane to block Larson, opened the inside lane for Ross Chastain to make his move along with Austin Dillon. Having open race track to himself at the right timing on the final straightaway, Chastain maintained the lead through all lanes to grab the win by 0.105 seconds over Dillon while LaJoie spun across the finish line. 

With the victory, Chastain, who only led the final lap out of the event’s 188-scheduled laps, notched his second NASCAR Cup Series career win in his 125th series start and his first at Talladega Superspeedway. In addition, he achieved the second NASCAR victory for Trackhouse Racing nearly a month after the team and Chastain achieved their first win at Circuit of the Americas.

“Holy cow,” Chastain, who celebrated with his trademark by smashing a watermelon on the frontstretch, said on FOX. “I’m always the one going to the top [lane] too early and making the mistake. There at the end, it was like eight [laps] to go, I was like I’m not going up there again. I did that a couple of times today. I was like, ‘I’ll just ride the bottom.’ I’m not gonna lose the race for us. I’ll just let them. To win with the Moose [Fraternity] on board, they’ve been with me for a few years now and supported me everywhere I went. I have no idea. [The leaders] just kept going up and they just kept moving out of the way.”

“I’ve wrecked myself so many times, gotten into it with guys,” Chastain added. “[Team owner] Justin Marks and what he laid out for us was ambitious and I had no idea what to expect other than I knew I had my group from last year, I had AdventHealth, the Moose, now with Worldwide Express, Jockey coming on board. We’ve got partners. They’re believing in us. We started the year with a lot of races open. We’re almost full now [with sponsors]. It’s because of the vision of Justin Marks and Pitbull. Armando [Pitbull], we won, dude!”

Austin Dillon came home in second place for his second runner-up result of the season while Kyle Busch, Larson and Truex finished in the top five. 

Erik Jones, who led 25 laps and was within a straightaway of snapping a two-year winless drought, settled in sixth place for his third top-10 result of the season.

“Last lap, it’s typical here,” Jones said. “I’ve been close here so many times in this race and the fall race. The U.S. Air Force Chevy had good speed. It just felt good to run up front, but come there that last lap, we were single file. I felt pretty good about it. They kind of doubled up behind us and that top lane was getting some momentum. Looking back, I wished I would’ve stayed on the bottom [lane], let [Chastain] push me. I didn’t realize they were coming with that much speed, but I tried to defend on [Larson]. We were too far ahead already right here. Obviously, defense on [Larson] kind of gives the door to [Chastain]. It is what it is. You’re just trying to win the race. You can only see how much so much is going on from the seat. You’re trying to make the best decision you can on the last 15-100 feet. Happy to run up front, lead laps. Just really would love to get the No. 43 [car] to Victory Lane. I thought today might be the day. All day long, we were fast and had speed and especially being up front there at the end on the last 10 [laps], I knew we had a shot. Just couldn’t quite close it out.”

Elliott, McDowell, Bowman and Harvick rounded out the top 10 on the track. Notably, teammates Kurt Busch and Wallace finished 16th and 17th behind Byron and in front of bossman Denny Hamlin following their final lap wreck.

There were 41 lead changes for 16 different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 28 laps.

With his seventh-place result, Chase Elliott continues to lead the regular-season standings by 21 points over Ryan Blaney, 34 over William Byron, 56 over Kyle Busch, 59 over Alex Bowman and 60 over Joey Logano.


1. Ross Chastain, one lap led

2. Austin Dillon

3. Kyle Busch, three laps led

4. Kyle Larson, 32 laps led

5. Martin Truex Jr.

6. Erik Jones, 25 laps led

7. Chase Elliott

8. Michael McDowell

9. Alex Bowman

10. Kevin Harvick

11. Ryan Blaney, 23 laps led

12. Justin Haley

13. Aric Almirola

14. Corey LaJoie, one lap led

15. William Byron, 38 laps led, Stage 2 winner

16. Kurt Busch, one lap led

17. Bubba Wallace, 15 laps led, Stage 1 winner

18. Denny Hamlin, nine laps led

19. Landon Cassill

20. Noah Gragson

21. Austin Cindric

22. Christopher Bell, one lap down, seven laps led

23. Brad Keselowski, one lap down

24. David Ragan, two laps down

25. JJ Yeley, three laps down, one lap led

26. BJ McLeod, 16 laps led, two laps led

27. Todd Gilliland – OUT, Accident

28. Cody Ware – OUT, Dvp

29. Cole Custer – OUT, Accident, one lap led

30. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – OUT, Accident

31. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Dvp, 28 laps led

32. Joey Logano – OUT, Accident, one lap led

33. Ty Dillon – OUT, Accident

34. Harrison Burton – OUT, Accident

35. Greg Biffle – OUT, Fuel pump

36. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Accident

37. Chase Briscoe – OUT, Accident

38. Chris Buescher – OUT, Accident

39. Tyler Reddick – OUT, Engine

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ lone annual visit of this season at Dover Motor Speedway in Dover, Delaware, for a 400-mile feature on Sunday, May 1. The event is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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