Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Ross Chastain Snaps Streak of NASCAR Cup Series Champions Winning the Finale

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Since the implementation of the current playoff format in 2014, every driver who has won the NASCAR Cup Series finale also hoisted the Bill France Trophy. In fact, the Cup Series was the only series that batted 1.000 in the category.

Ross Chastain changed all of that as he was victorious in Sunday’s Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway. He did so in dominant fashion as the “Melon Man” led a race-high 157 of 312 laps to end a rather rough season with his second win of the year and the fourth of his career.

While all eyes were on Ryan Blaney winning the championship and Kevin Harvick saying goodbye, Chastain’s victory still created some buzz.

“I was a little worried that they might be focused on Blaney,” said Chastain. “I went down to three and four where NASCAR wanted me to go, and I did a burnout by him. We did burnouts by each other. Pretty cool. I was worried we were going to run into each other.

“The reaction was just as strong as the other wins. I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud that people see how much I care whenever we win.”

Chastain’s quest towards victory faced a roadblock as Blaney fought hard on hunting him down. Some blocks were thrown, infuriating Blaney as he deliberately slammed into the back bumper of Chastain on multiple occasions.

With 56 laps remaining, Blaney furthermore showed his displeasure by remining Chastain that he’s number one. Just like his car number of his Chevrolet Camaro.

Blaney made it clear how upset he was at Chastain as his odds for the championship could’ve been compromised due to the aggressive battle.

“F****** right I hit him on purpose. He blocked me on purpose 10 times,” said Blaney.

“What do you expect me to do? He’s backing me up to the other championship guy, and I got to go. We were just racing hard.

“But do I think he was over excessive on the blocks? Yes, very much so. Did I hit him? Yes, I did. That’s just part of it.”

A misunderstanding from Chastain regarding having no remorse on the title contenders if it meant winning was in the cards. In the post-race press conference, Chastain clarified that he does care for his competitors, especially when there’s four guys going for NASCAR immortality. More than Blaney does in his own eyes.

Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

“I care, arguably, out there more than anybody because I was not going to put him in a position to damage his car in any way, put his car in a bad spot, other than keep him behind me. As long as he’s behind me, that’s all I cared about,” Chastain explained.

“We’re all different. He reacts physically in the car. I mean, (Ryan) says stuff on the radio, for sure. I just have known him, that you can see him. Bright neon yellow, so you can see it easily.

“I believe that I cared arguably more than him. He didn’t have to pass me to win the championship. He could stay right there. There was no other competitor for points within any sight of me. It was the 19, the 12 and the 1, third, second, first.

“I’d say I cared more than anybody as long as he was running second. He didn’t need to run first. He didn’t run first last year. His teammate won. Now he could run second again and win the championship.”

After 36 races, Chastain ends the season ninth in points with wins at Nashville and Phoenix. Compared to a year ago where he was fighting for the championship, Chastain was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 12.

All of that in mind, Chastain described his season as indescribable.

“It’s honestly hard to put into words what this means, what winning in Cup feels like,” said Chastain. “I cannot describe it. I cannot describe the ripple effects this will have going into the off-season, preparing for next year.

“The best way I can describe it, just a lot of stuff. That’s Cup racing. I’m going to make mistakes. (Trackhouse Racing) knew that hiring me. Through the good days of winning and the bad days of crashing out going for wins, spinning people out, ultimately they’re there for me. This is a great way to go enjoy the off-season.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.