By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A golden opportunity for Ross Chastain ended deep in the field after contact with Kevin Harvick. The fourth-year NASCAR Xfinity Series driver dominated the first half of the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“This opportunity is once in a lifetime,” Chastain admitted. “It’s been incredible the last two weeks to get up to speed with CGR, to try to use all of the pieces of their puzzle to go fast in their racecar. I struggled in the second practice yesterday, and the crew just told me to go drive, not to think about everything. I did that. I drove the racecar and took what it could give me.”
Chastain, who was making his first start for Ganassi in the DC Solar colors, battled hard with 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Harvick. On lap 111, the battle came to a head as the duo attempted pass a lap car side-by-side in turns one and two. At corner exit, Harvick collided with Chastain, putting the Xfinity Series Playoff hopeful into the wall.
“I got free there that last run we were up front,” Chastain explained. “They kept rolling the bottom and caught up. I kept running the outside and clearing him (Harvick). He did have a better one and two there, there’s a lap car, a lot going on, and I am trying to learn. I had never been in that situation, but I trust the guys that I’m racing around to give me a car-width. We just ran out of room there.”
Further down the backstretch, Chastain showed his displeasure, spinning Harvick as the caution waved. The Premier Series driver showed his own displeasure, stopping in Chastain’s pit stall briefly.
The damage to Chastain’s Camaro, which had been dominating the race at Darlington Raceway, was significant. Tire rubs on the right side, the tow of the rear-end was knocked out of place, and the spoiler was damaged. It proved to be too much for Chastain to overcome, as he dropped from the lead to finish 25th, two laps down.
Chastain won the pole and swept both stages. It was his first career pole in the Xfinity Series, and his first stage wins. Although he remains the cutoff for the Playoffs, 12thin the Championship Points Standings, Chastain is now just six points behind Austin Cindric in 11th. He is 345-Points behind Points Leader Justin Allgaier, and 54-Points ahead of Michael Annett, the first driver on the outside, looking in.
Chastain’s next race for Chip Ganassi will be the regular season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in two weeks. Next weekend, he will return to his regular No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro for JD Motorsports.