HOMESTEAD, Fla – “I want to throw up,” said Ross Chastain following his fourth place finish in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Chastain, saw two non playoff drivers finish ahead of him in the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season finale.
Unfortunately for him, the underdog in this year’s Championship 4 was also ahead of him at the 134th lap of the race.
Matt Crafton hasn’t won a race in 58 races now. His last win came back in 2017. He also hadn’t scored a top five finish since early June and had beaten the other three championship eligible drivers just once all season.
Despite that, Chastain would finish a career best second in the final standings with his top five finish on Friday night. His result is all because of a slow pit stop during the second stage break.
Chastain, lost three spots on pit road when they put a spring rubber in his No. 45 Chevrolet during that stop. Little did they know then, it would cost them.
The Florida native was marred back in ninth and struggled to get back up through the field. He’d land over nine seconds behind Crafton for the top playoff spot with only one pit stop remaining.
To make matters worse, we had only seen three cautions all race and two of which were for stage breaks. On top of that, since we went to stage breaks in NASCAR, we had never had a caution fly in the final stage.
Chastian now needed help via a fluke caution. It would never come. While he did surge in the end, fourth place just wasn’t enough.
It still caps a miraculous season for him.
Chastain has been that driver that has been searching for a lucky break. He came into the 2019 NASCAR season as a journeyman racing for underfunded teams. But, he finally got his break.
Last year, he bet on himself and took his funding to a three race deal with Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Instead of another full season with JD Motorsports, he spread his funding out.
Perform with CGR and show that he’s deserving of a top ride. But, if you don’t perform with them, then it would show that he can’t perform with top equipment and would never get this opportunity again.
He showed out.
He led the most laps in his first start with them in Darlington only to win the next race in Vegas. From there, he finished second in Richmond. CGR liked what they saw that they initially signed him for a full season with them in 2019. Unfortunately, their sponsor DC Solar went under in a FBI investigation and Reddick was out of a ride.
JDM offered him to come back, so he obliged. He took the rest of his money for select starts with Kaulig Racing. He also had a full time ride with an underfunded Premium Motorsports team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as well as a full season effort with Niece Motorsports in the Truck Series.
Despite three full time rides in all three divisions, Chastain elected for NXS points. But, it was the Truck Series where he had the most success. While Niece is a small team, he finished third in the season opener in Daytona, sixth in Atlanta, 10th in Vegas and fourth in Martinsville to begin the year. Chastain, had six straight top 10’s.
Then, came the Month of May. He won the race at Kansas for his first Truck Series victory and switched his allegiance in terms of points. He declared Truck points instead of XFINITY points. That was a big risk. While a win made his championship eligible, he wasn’t in the top 20 of points. See, his first six races didn’t count in drivers points. You can’t retro that either. He’d start from Kansas on and have 10 races to get into the top 20.
It was a major risk but last year was too and it paid off. So did this risk as well.
Chastain, finished 10th in Charlotte as well as Texas then thought he won again in Iowa. Unfortunately, his Truck didn’t pass inspection and he was credited with a last place finish as a result. It would be a larger hill to climb. He showed his strength.
Chastain, won a week later in Gateway and a month later in Pocono to end the regular season with four top seven’s in six tries, two of which wins. He was playoff eligible.
All that hardwork paid off. In the playoffs, Chastain thrived and has marched all the way to the Championship 4. He’s was in the hunt to win a championship in his home state of Florida. The Alva native also won at Daytona in the XFINITY Series for Kaulig in July, but a championship on Friday night at Homestead would have been his top career defining moment.
If he can take JD Motorsports to the playoffs in NXS competition last year, even with three Ganassi starts, then Niece to not just the playoffs but the Championship 4 in the Truck Series this year, all while battling adversity several times, he’s proved enough that he’s deserving of a top NASCAR ride. He’s already a champion in most peoples eyes, but taking home hardware on Friday, would have been over the top.