Chastain fends off Truex for first Cup victory of 2023 at Nashville

In a season that has been characterized by an up-and-down journey through his share of run-ins and challenges, all while remaining competitive, Ross Chastain capped off a historic weekend that commenced by winning his first NASCAR Cup Series career pole to capturing his first Cup Series victory of the season in the third annual running of the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 25.

The 30-year-old Chastain from Alva, Florida, led five times for a race-high 99 of 300-scheduled laps in a weekend where he led the field to the green flag for the first time ever from pole position. After leading early before spending the majority of the event keeping pace with the front-runners, Chastain commenced his late charge to victory by overtaking Denny Hamlin for the lead with 70 laps remaining. Following a series of green flag pit stops, he then cycled back into the lead with 34 laps remaining and fended off a late charge from Martin Truex Jr. to capture the first checkered flag of the 2023 Cup season for himself and Trackhouse Racing.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, June 24, Ross Chastain notched his first Cup Series pole position of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 160.687 mph in 29.797 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Tyler Reddick, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 159.573 mph in 30.005 seconds.

Prior to the event, Daniel Suarez started at the rear of the field in a backup car after wrecking his primary car during Saturday’s qualifying session. Corey LaJoie, who also had an incident during his qualifying run, also started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments and repairs made to his Spire Motorsports entry.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Chastain fended off an early challenge from Reddick to assume the lead through the first two turns. As the field fanned out and jostled early for on-track positions, Chastain proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Reddick while Joey Logano moved up to third. Behind, Justin Haley, who qualified third, settled in fourth in front of Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron. In addition, Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin battled for seventh as the event surpassed the second-lap mark.

The battles around the circuit would continue through the third lap as Truex and Byron moved into the top five while Haley fell back to sixth in front of Wallace, all while Chastain remained as the leader by a steady margin over Reddick. Chastain would proceed to retain the lead as the event reached its fifth lap mark.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Chastain was leading by two-tenths of a second over Reddick followed by Logano, Truex and Byron while Haley, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Wallace and Kyle Busch were in the top 10. Behind, Chris Buescher was in 11th ahead of Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman and rookie Ty Gibbs while AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. occupied the top 20.

Just past the Lap 15 mark, Kyle Busch, who was running within the top 10, made an unscheduled pit stop under green due to a flat right-front tire on his No. 8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. With Busch plummeting below the leaderboard and losing a lap, Chastain maintained the lead by within two-tenths of a second over Reddick. By then, Truex and Byron moved up to third and fourth while Logano was in fifth.

At the Lap 25 mark, Chastain retained the lead by a tenth of a second over Reddick followed by Truex and Byron while Hamlin moved his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry into fifth place. With Logano falling back to sixth, Haley was scored in seventh ahead of Elliott, Wallace and Buescher. Behind, Larson was situated in 12th in between Blaney and Bowman, Harvick was in 17th behind Christopher Bell and Keselowski was in 18th. In addition, rookie Noah Gragson, who received medical clearance to return to racing after missing Sonoma Raceway due to concussion-like symptoms, was mired in 26th in between Corey LaJoie and Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric was in 28th and Chase Briscoe was back in 31st.

Ten laps later, Chastain slightly stretched his advantage to half a second over Reddick while Truex, Byron and Hamlin remained in the top five. By then, Haley and Elliott moved up to sixth and seventh in front of Logano while Blaney carved his way into the top 10 in 10th place. Behind, Bowman moved up to 11th ahead of teammate Larson while Wallace fell back to 15th.

Then just past the Lap 40 mark, green flag pit stops commenced as Ryan Preece pitted followed by Wallace, Harvick, Michael McDowell, Larson, Aric Almirola, Truex, Ty Gibbs, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Reddick and others. Chastain would then surrender the lead on Lap 42 to pit under green followed by more competitors as Byron proceeded to lead a lap for himself before he pitted during Lap 43 as Chase Elliott assumed a brief lead. Once Elliott pitted on Lap 45, teammate Alex Bowman cycled into the lead for a lap before he surrendered the lead to Suarez, who would pit after leading a lap for himself on Lap 46. By then, Ty Dillon, who had yet to pit, cycled into the lead while Michael McDowell, who pitted earlier, was assessed a pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation.

By the time Ty Dillon pitted just past the Lap 50 mark, which completed the first cycle of green flag pit stops, Chastain cycled back into the lead ahead of Reddick. Behind, Byron moved up to third ahead of Truex and Hamlin while Kyle Busch, Elliott, Logano, Larson and Buescher were running in the top 10.

At the Lap 60 mark, Chastain, who was trying to lap Noah Gragson, continued to lead by a tenth of a second over a hard-charging Reddick and by more than a second over third-place Byron while Truex and Hamlin remained in the top five. With Gragson refusing to relent to the leaders during the proceeding lap, Reddick gained a strong run on Chastain through the first two turns before he drew himself alongside Chastain’s No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and assumed the lead, thus becoming the second leader of the event.

Fifteen laps later, Reddick, who nearly lost the lead amid a side-by-side battle with Chastain six laps earlier, was leading by half a second over Chastain, who continued to keep Reddick within his sights. Meanwhile, third-place Byron trailed by more than two seconds ahead of Truex and Hamlin while Elliott, winner of last year’s Cup event at Nashville, carved his way up to sixth in front of Kyle Busch and Larson. In addition, Bell was up in ninth ahead of AJ Allmendinger, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity event at Nashville.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 90, Reddick, sporting The Big 615 radio station on Tuneln captured his third stage victory of the 2023 Cup season after fending off Chastain by four-tenths of a second. Byron and Truex followed suit in third and fourth along with Hamlin while Elliott, Kyle Busch, Larson, Bell and Allmendinger were scored in the top 10. By then, 25 of 36 competitors were scored on the lead lap.

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Reddick pitted for service. Following the pit stops, the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 piloted by Byron managed to exit pit road first with the lead ahead of Chastain, Reddick, Truex, Hamlin and Larson. Amid the pit stops, Kyle Busch and Harvick were both penalized for speeding on pit road.

The second stage started on Lap 97 as Byron and Chastain occupied the front row. At the start, Truex launched a three-wide challenge on Chastain and Byron through the first two turns and the backstretch. All three continued to battle tightly amid three tight lanes for a full lap and they would all continue to battle tightly by the Lap 100 mark. Then during the following lap, Truex managed to launch ahead in his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry and assume the lead with a clear racetrack around him while Byron and Chastain battled for second in front of Reddick and Bell.  

By Lap 110, Truex was leading by nearly a second over Byron and Chastain while Reddick and Bell remained in the top five. Behind, Hamlin was in sixth ahead of Elliott, Blaney, Larson and Buescher while Bowman, Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Aric Almirola and Erik Jones were running in the top 15.

Fifteen laps later, Truex stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Byron followed by Reddick, Chastain and Bell while Hamlin, Elliott, Larson, Blaney and Buescher were running in the top 10. By then, Allmendinger and Bowman continued to duel fiercely for 11th while Kyle Busch had carved his way up to 16th. In addition, Harvick was up in 20th while Logano had fallen to 19th.

Nearly 10 laps later, the event’s second round of green flag pit stops commenced as Austin Dillon and Haley pitted. They were soon followed by Ty Gibbs and Kyle Busch as Reddick, Byron, Chastain, Bell, Larson, Blaney, Bowman, Almirola, Buescher, Bowman and Erik Jones pitted. Then on Lap 138, Truex surrendered the lead to pit as teammate Hamlin cycled into the lead.

Then on Lap 138, the caution flew when Reddick, who had just pitted and was trying to cycle his way back onto pit road, spun towards the pit road entrance as a result of a loose right-rear wheel, which the wheel popped out of the car and rolled down towards the pit road wall as Reddick spun backward on pit road. During the caution period, Hamlin, Keselowski and Wallace, all three of whom had yet to pit, pitted, but all three were able to gain a bevy of spots from second through fourth as Truex cycled back into the lead. As a result of spinning and losing the wheel on pit road, Reddick was assessed a tail end of the line penalty as he lost two laps in the process.

Just as the field restarted under green on Lap 146, the caution quickly returned amid a stacked restart as Keselowski struggled to launch forward when Blaney, who restarted within the top 20, got hit in the rear by Kyle Busch. While Busch briefly spun in front of Bowman, Blaney slid his No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang all the way toward the bottom of the track and past the pit road exit before making head-on contact with the inside wall as his event came to an end just shy of the halfway mark.

During the proceeding restart on Lap 152, the field fanned out entering the first turn as teammates Truex and Hamlin battled for the lead in front of Bubba Wallace. With Byron launching his attack on Wallace for third during the following lap, teammates Truex and Hamlin continued to duel for the lead. Despite pulling away from third-place Byron by seven-tenths of a second, Truex and Hamlin continued to battle dead even for the lead until Hamlin managed to rocket ahead with a clear racetrack and the lead on Lap 157.

At the Lap 165 mark, Hamlin was leading by four-tenths of a second over a lurking Truex while Byron, Chastain and Wallace were scored in the top five. Behind, Bell was in sixth ahead of Elliott, Allmendinger, Larson and Erik Jones while Keselowski, Harvick, Ty Gibbs, Buescher and Daniel Suarez were in the top 15.

Ten laps later, Hamlin retained the lead by four-tenths of a second over teammate Truex while Chastain moved up to third ahead of Byron and Wallace.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 185, Hamlin captured his fourth stage victory of the 2023 Cup season. Teammate Truex settled in second ahead of Chastain, Byron and Bell while Wallace, Elliott, Allmendinger, Harvick and Erik Jones were scored in the top 10.

During the stage break, the leaders led by Hamlin pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Hamlin retained the lead after exiting first ahead of teammate Truex, Byron, Chastain, Bell, Elliott and Harvick. Amid the pit stops, Wallace, who pitted from sixth, exited pit road just outside the top 15 after enduring a slow pit service from his pit crew while Austin Cindric was penalized for speeding on pit road.

With 108 laps remaining, the final stage started as teammates Hamlin and Truex occupied the front row. At the start and with the field fanning out, Hamlin retained the lead ahead of Truex and Chastain while the field behind jostled for positions.

With 100 laps remaining, Hamlin was leading by four-tenths of a second over teammate Truex while Chastain, Bell and Byron were in the top five. Behind, Kevin Harvick carved his way up to sixth while Elliott, Suarez, Ty Gibbs and Logano occupied the top 10. Meanwhile, Erik Jones was in 11th while Keselowski, Buescher, Wallace, Larson, Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Stenhouse and Harrison Burton were mired in the top 20, with 30 of 36 starters running on the lead lap.

Ten laps later, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to within two-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Truex while third-place Chastain trailed by more than a second. Hamlin would continue to lead teammate Truex by a tenth of a second another 10 laps later while Harvick carved his No. 4 Busch Light Peach Ford Mustang up to fourth as he trailed the lead by more than three seconds. Soon after with 74 laps remaining, Chastain battled and overtook Truex for second as he tried to launch his charge on Hamlin for the lead.

Then with 70 laps remaining, Chastain gained a strong run on Hamlin exiting the frontstretch as he returned to the lead over Hamlin while Truex trailed in third by seven-tenths of a second. By then, Harvick retained fourth as he trailed by more than a second while Chase Elliott was in fifth and trailing by more than five seconds.

With 61 laps remaining, late trouble struck for Harvick, who was starting to challenge Truex for third, as he fell off the pace and pitted under green to address a flat right-rear tire to his No. 4 entry. Not long after, another cycle of green flag pit stops slowly commenced as Elliott pitted followed by Truex, Corey LaJoie and Cindric. The leader Chastain would then pit with 58 laps remaining followed by Hamlin and after the pit stops, Chastain managed to blend back on the track ahead of Truex and Hamlin while more competitors pitted under green.

With 45 laps remaining and with most of the field having made a pit stop under green, Kyle Busch was leading by more than seven seconds over Bowman, but both were in need of another pit stop to make it to the event’s scheduled distance. Meanwhile, third-place Chastain, the first competitor on four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, was trailing by more than 14 seconds while Truex and Hamlin were in the top five.

Then with nearly 40 laps remaining, Kyle Busch surrendered the lead to pit under green. Busch’s move gave Bowman the lead while Chastain cut the deficit to trail by more than four seconds. Once Bowman pitted his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 under green with 34 laps remaining, Chastain, who started to approach lapped traffic, reassumed the lead ahead of a hard-charging Truex, who kept Chastain close within his sights.

Down to the final 25 laps of the event, Chastain was leading by a tenth of a second over Truex, who was trying to gain more ground on Chastain for the lead through every turn and straightaway, while third-place Hamlin trailed by more than three seconds.

Ten laps later, Chastain, who started to experiment with different racing lanes to place a reasonable gap between himself and Truex, started to stretch his advantage to eight-tenths of a second over Truex while third-place Hamlin trailed by more than four seconds.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Chastain continued to lead by six-tenths of a second over Truex as third-place Hamlin trailed by more than four seconds. Behind, Elliott and Byron were in the top five while Larson, Bell, Erik Jones, Allmendinger and Keselowski occupied the top 10.

With five laps remaining, Chastain extended his advantage to eight-tenths of a second over Truex, who was slowly losing ground on Chastain in his bid for a second consecutive victory in recent weeks.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Chastain remained as the leader by seven-tenths of a second over Truex. With Truex unable to gain ground to mount a final lap charge, Chastain was able to navigate his way around Nashville for a final time and cycle back to the finish line to capture his first elusive checkered flag of the 2023 Cup season.

With the victory, Chastain, the championship runner-up finisher from last season, became the 11th different competitor to win through the first 17 regular-season events and place himself in prime contention to make the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs. He also notched his third Cup career victory, his first in 42 races and since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2022. The Floridian also achieved his first oval-shaped victory and the first win for Trackhouse Racing since teammate Daniel Suarez won at Sonoma Raceway in June 2022.

Ironically, Chastain extended Chevrolet’s winning streak at Nashville to three consecutive seasons in the three seasons the Cup Series has competed at Music City.

“[The] Only thing sweeter [than winning] is this Georgia watermelon, I gotta tell you!” Chastain, who smashed a watermelon on the frontstretch, exclaimed on NBC. “This is incredible. This is why every little kid out there, anywhere in the world, when you get criticized and you’re going to if you’re competitive, they will try to tear you down. You will start believing them [that] you can’t do it. You have to go to your people, trust in the process, read your books, trust the big man’s plan upstairs and just keep getting up and going to work. I gotta tell you, a lot of self-reflection through all of this, but I had a group that believed in me and they didn’t let me get down. They bring rocket ships and I just try to point them into Victory Lane…It’s absolutely incredible the fight that we have.”

“[The fun]’s just a desire to win,” Chastain added. “It’s just so hard at this level and it’s the best of the best. It’s where I’ve wanted to be since I was 18 years old. It’s a Cup win. I don’t care what happened the last month or by the rest of my life. It’s a freaking Cup win!”

Truex, the winner of the previous Cup scheduled event at Sonoma, ended up in second place after leading 50 laps, though he maintained the lead in the regular-season standings, while teammate Hamlin rallied from wrecking late at Sonoma to settle in third at Nashville after leading 81 laps.

“[I] Just needed to get the lead,” Truex said. “Once we lost it, I probably made a bad move, taking the bottom [lane] on the restart. Just too loose on the long runs. I could hang with whoever was leading. Just could never get off the corner good enough to make a move. Just lacking soundbite and then overall, just burning the rear tires off too much. Just really loose at the end of the race there as well. Just needed a little bit. Got lots of speed. Just could never get the balance where it needed it to be. Without having clean air, it was difficult. Overall, a good night for our Bass Pro/Tracker Toyota Camry. The guys are doing a great job. Just that close again. If we can keep doing this, we’ll be in good shape.”

“I just think we had a third-place car the entire race,” Hamlin said. “I thought [Truex] was a little better. [Chastain], obviously, came on strong there at the end. That’s all we had with our FedEx Ground Toyota. It’s an optimized day. It’s a day with no mistakes and we gave ourselves a chance. Just didn’t have quite a fast enough car to go up and contend.”

Meanwhile, Elliott notched his fourth top-five result of the season by finishing fourth, where he still trails the top-16 cutline to make the Playoffs by 64 points, while teammate Larson rallied to finish fifth.

Byron, Bell, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger finished in the top 10. Notably, Suarez, who crashed into Chase Briscoe at the event’s conclusion while trying to congratulate teammate Chastain on the track, ended up 12th after starting the event at the rear of the field. In addition, rookie Ty Gibbs settled in 14th in front of Bubba Wallace, Bowman ended up 17th, Logano fell back to 19th, Harvick finished 24th after never recovering from his late tire issue and Reddick could only work his way up to 30th following his early spin and tire issue.

There were 21 lead changes for 12 different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 24 laps. In total, 21 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.

With nine regular-season events remaining of this year’s Cup Series schedule, Martin Truex Jr. continues to lead the regular-season standings by 18 points over both William Byron and Ross Chastain while Christopher Bell trails by 45 points and Kyle Busch trails by 48.

William Byron, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are currently guaranteed spots for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez currently occupy the remaining vacant spots to the Playoffs based on points, with Suarez occupying the 16th and final vacant spot by two points over Alex Bowman, 10 over rookie Ty Gibbs, 24 over AJ Allmendinger, 27 over Michael McDowell, 45 over Corey LaJoie, 51 over Austin Cindric and 55 over Justin Haley.

Results.

1. Ross Chastain, 99 laps led

2. Martin Truex Jr., 50 laps led

3. Denny Hamlin, 81 laps led, Stage 2 winner

4. Chase Elliott, one lap led

5. Kyle Larson

6. William Byron, five laps led

7. Christopher Bell, three laps led

8. Erik Jones

9. Kyle Busch, 12 laps led

10. AJ Allmendinger

11. Brad Keselowski, two laps led

12. Daniel Suarez, one lap led

13. Austin Dillon

14. Ty Gibbs

15. Bubba Wallace

16. Ryan Preece

17. Alex Bowman, nine laps led

18. Chris Buescher

19. Joey Logano

20. Corey LaJoie

21. Harrison Burton

22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down

23. Justin Haley, one lap down

24. Kevin Harvick, one lap down

25.  Aric Almirola, one lap down

26. Noah Gragson, one lap down

27. Austin Cindric, one lap down

28. Michael McDowell, one lap down

29. JJ Yeley, two laps down

30. Tyler Reddick, two laps down, 33 laps led, Stage 1 winner

31. Chase Briscoe, two laps down

32. Ty Dillon, two laps down, four laps led

33. Brennan Poole, three laps down

34. Josh Bilicki, three laps down

35. Todd Gilliand, four laps down

36. Ryan Blaney – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ inaugural event at the Chicago Street Course in Downtown Chicago, Illinois. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, July 2, at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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

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