Right Place At Right Time For Ross Chastain; Captures Checkered Flag At Talladega For Second NASCAR Cup Win Of ’22

Story By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – TALLADEGA, AL – One lap. That’s all it took for Ross Chastain to drop a watermelon and raise a trophy in celebration.

The 29-year old Floridian led only the last – typically frantic – lap in the GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Sunday to take his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Chastain was running third behind Erik Jones and Kyle Larson with one lap remaining. Larson pulled out of line to the outside poised to make a pass for the lead. But, Jones pulled in front of Larson to block the momentum while Chastain kept his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet steady below them maintaining pace ultimately pulling away to the win as the other two cars lost momentum battling each other.

“Holy cow, we didn’t do anything,’’ Chastain yelled on his team radio after taking the checkered flag by a mere .105-second. “We just stayed down there.’’

And it worked.

“I’m always the one going to the top too early and making the mistake and there at the end, with like eight to go I was like “I’m not going up there again, I did that a couple times today,’ said Chastain, who earned his first career series victory at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas on March 27.

“I was like, I’ll just drive the bottom, I’m not going to lose the race for us. They just kept going up and moving out of the way.”

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon crossed the line in second, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch while the Hendrick Motorsports driver Larson was able to finish fourth for his first top-5 finish in a restrictor plate race in 31 tries.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was fifth followed by Jones, who came less than one lap away from giving GMS Petty Motorsports and team owner Richard Petty its first win since 2014.

“Just the last lap, it’s typical here,’’ said a disappointed Jones, who finished sixth. “I’ve been close here so many times in this race and the fall race.’’

“Looking back,’’ he continued. “I wish I’d stayed in the bottom but didn’t realize they were coming with that much speed. Tried to defend the 5 (Larson), but was too far ahead already and obviously it opened the door for the 1 (Chastain).

He did take solace in the showing, however.

“Happy to run up front and lead laps, just would really love to get that 43 to victory lane and thought today might be the day,’’ Jones said. “We were fast all day long, had speed and especially being out front there at the end I know we had a shot, just couldn’t quite close it out.’’

Larson was equally as disappointed hoping to turn his best race performance at Talladega into a trophy.

“I felt like I did a pretty near perfect job for me at a superspeedway until the last lap there,’’ said Larson, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion. “I should have faked going high and gone back low. I had that run there.’

“Just that little inexperience there, probably,’’ he added.

Larson’s Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott, a former Talladega winner, finished seventh, followed by former DAYTONA 500 winner Michael McDowell, Hendrick’s Alex Bowman and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick.

The race ending capped off a typically dramatic day featuring 41 lead changes among 16 drivers. Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron led a race best 38 of the 188 laps and won Stage 2, but finished 15th unable to make up ground after his final pit stop in the dicey closing laps.

Bubba Wallace, who won last fall at Talladega and led 15 laps on Sunday, won Stage 1 – his first stage win of the season – but as with Byron, lost positions in the final laps. He was involved in a wreck coming to the checkered flag and finished 17th in the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota.

Elliott’s top-10 was good enough for him to extend the championship lead over 11th place finisher, Penske Racing’s Ryan Blaney. He’s now 21 points up on the field heading to Dover (Del.) International Speedway next weekend where the NASCAR Cup Series will race Sunday in the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by ReLaDyne (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Bowman is the defending race winner.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 53rd Annual GEICO 500
Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega, Alabama
Sunday, April 24, 2022

1. (19) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 188.
2. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.
3. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188.
4. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 188.
5. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 188.
6. (16) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 188.
7. (28) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188.
8. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, 188.
9. (27) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188.
10. (24) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 188.
11. (22) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188.
12. (11) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 188.
13. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188.
14. (33) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 188.
15. (8) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.
16. (6) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 188.
17. (9) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 188.
18. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 188.
19. (39) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 188.
20. (31) Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, 188.
21. (18) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 188.
22. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 187.
23. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 187.
24. (36) David Ragan, Ford, 186.
25. (38) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 185.
26. (37) BJ McLeod, Ford, 172.
27. (32) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, Accident, 121.
28. (34) Cody Ware, Ford, DVP, 105.
29. (29) Cole Custer, Ford, Engine, 98.
30. (26) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 95.
31. (4) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, DVP, 92.
32. (13) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 89.
33. (20) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 89.
34. (25) Harrison Burton #, Ford, Accident, 89.
35. (35) Greg Biffle, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 79.
36. (3) Daniel Hemric(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 56.
37. (17) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Accident, 56.
38. (30) Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 56.
39. (10) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Engine, 31.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 148.637 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 21 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.105 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 28 laps.
Lead Changes: 41 among 16 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Bell 1;D. Suarez 2-3;C. Bell 4-9;D. Suarez 10-35;C. Custer 36;J. Logano 37;K. Larson 38-50;B. Wallace 51;K. Larson 52;B. Wallace 53;K. Larson 54;B. Wallace 55-60;B. McLeod 61;K. Larson 62-64;E. Jones 65;K. Larson 66;E. Jones 67;K. Larson 68-69;E. Jones 70-73;B. Wallace 74;E. Jones 75-82;B. McLeod 83;W. Byron 84-121;*. Yeley(i) 122;E. Jones 123-124;K. Busch 125;E. Jones 126;K. Busch 127-128;R. Blaney 129-151;B. Wallace 152;E. Jones 153-154;B. Wallace 155-159;C. LaJoie 160;K. Busch 161;D. Hamlin 162-170;K. Larson 171-176;E. Jones 177;K. Larson 178-181;E. Jones 182-183;K. Larson 184;E. Jones 185-187;R. Chastain 188.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron 1 time for 38 laps; Kyle Larson 9 times for 32 laps; Daniel Suarez 2 times for 28 laps; Erik Jones 10 times for 25 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 23 laps; Bubba Wallace 6 times for 15 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 9 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 7 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 3 laps; BJ McLeod 2 times for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; * JJ Yeley(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap; Ross Chastain 1 time for 1 lap; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; Cole Custer 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 23,5,20,24,19,9,45,43,48,47
Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,9,5,19,48,18,10,43,1,45

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