By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Following his maiden NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory last Friday at Kansas Speedway, Ross Chastain headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway, hoping to go 8-for-8 to start of the season. A feat he barely accomplished in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finishing 10th in the No. 45 TruNorth/Paul Jr. Designs Chevrolet Silverado.
Prior to the green flag, Chastain stated during the media breakdown session that winning last Friday was significant, but doesn’t have a preference as it pertained either Kansas or his Xfinity Series win at Las Vegas last September was his favorite.
“I can’t rank one above the other, but I can tell you that I celebrated this one a lot harder. In the truck after the race, I just jumped around because I was so excited,” said Chastain. “Fast forward to this, no one expected it and it came on so quick at the end of the race. For a second, I didn’t know if I could get him or not, but I was pushing as hard as I could. I was going to make one last attempt on the last lap.
Even if he’s ineligible to score Truck Series drivers points, the No. 45 truck was third behind Grant Enfinger’s No. 98 Ford and owner points leader Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota. That doesn’t mean Chastain is out to race for just points, and isn’t biggest fan of people bringing it up.
“I don’t like point racing and I don’t like when people talk about points so much,” Chastain explained. “I can’t rank one above the other, but I celebrated and enjoyed this one a lot more.”
Once the race commenced, Chastain was having a solid run with a fifth in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2. During the final stage, Chastain battled for position but a repeat began waning late in the going.
Then a late caution came out for Brett Moffitt’s lose right rear tire with just seven laps remaining. The team made the call to bring Chastain, giving up his top-10 spot to pit for fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment, anticipating a thrilling finish, and thrilling it was on the final restart with three laps to go.
Chastain ran into the back of Johnny Sauter, damaging the front bumper of his truck. Sauter’s truck didn’t go on the restart, resulting in the contact which bunched the back of the field. While Chastain got through it without further ramifications, a bid of catching the leaders on older tires was out of the question.
Coming to the final lap, Chastain was running behind 10th-place Harrison Burton as his top-10 streak was on the line. The Floridan got a strong run on the top groove and cleared Burton heading down the backstretch. The late-race strategy paid off and remained undefeated in the top-10 category.
Charlotte marks Chastain’s last race in the No. 45 truck for the time being as he’s barred from competing the next several races due to the Triple Truck Challenge. Instead, Reid Wilson will pilot the truck, beginning at Texas Motor Speedway June 7.