AUSTIN, Texas — In exactly the kind of thrilling final lap, final turn finish NASCAR has so often provided on road courses, Ross Chastain persevered in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series race at the Circuit of The Americas, becoming the sixth different winner in the series this season.
Chastain had to earn this one, coming out on the right end of a frantic two-lap final overtime that featured four lead changes. And he did by moving past A.J. Allmendinger and Alex Bowman in the final series of turns on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn circuit to take not only his first Cup Series victory but also the first for Trackhouse Racing and owner Justin Marks in stock car’s big leagues.
After grabbing the top position in the final corner, Chastain raced off to a 1.331-second victory over Bowman, who, unlike Allmendinger, was able to recover from the contact and continue to the checkered flag. Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five. Allmendinger finished 33rd.
Chastain’s family owns a watermelon farm in rural Alva, Fla. and as he has famously done with past victories in both the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Chastain stood on top of his winning car and slammed a watermelon to the track as his team and fans exploded in cheers.
“It’s insane to go up against some of the best and I know he’s [Allmendinger] going to be upset with me, but we race hard, both of us,” said Chastain, who came to COTA having scored consecutive runner-up finishes the past two weeks.
“But when it comes to this Cup win, I can’t let that go down without a fight.”
Allmendinger, who was a Xfinity Series teammate with Chastain two years ago, was understandably crushed after the race.
“We just needed two more corners,” said Allmendinger, who also went door-to-door in a tight on-track battle with Chastain to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.
“Everybody’s got to be comfortable with the move they make and look in the mirror,” Allmendinger told FOX Sports. “Everybody’s different on what they view, and you can’t judge a person for that.
“So, at the end of the day, I’m just proud of Kaulig Racing for bringing such a fast Action Industry Chevrolet. We started at the back, drove to the front and if we’d had a long run [at the end] it would have been game over. Nobody would have touched me.
“You know the moves are going to be made at times. Whether I’m okay with it doesn’t really matter. I wanted to sweep the weekend and we came two corners away,” he added.
Chastain led a race-high 31 of the 69 laps, one of nine leaders in the series’ first road course race running the Next Gen cars. The race produced a Cup Series road course record of 30 green flag passes for the lead.
The 29-year-old Chastain also becomes the 12th consecutive Cup Series race winner under the age of 30 and the third first-time winner this season.
It was as equally a thrilling maiden win for the former NASCAR and sportscar driver Marks, who was interviewed during the FOX telecast just before the final restart, revealing with a smile that “It’s a little easier to be a driver of one these things than to watch.”
“It seemed like a real tall order when I dreamt this thing up,” Marks said. “But every man and woman that’s trusted the vision and committed to Trackhouse and worked so hard owns a piece of this victory. I’m so happy for everybody. Everybody believed in this, and I can’t wait for next week.”
Marks also said that he spoke with the team’s co-owner, music superstar Pitbull, who promised he also was smashing a watermelon over his head and drinking champagne.
Polesitter Ryan Blaney finished sixth followed by Martin Truex Jr., Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, and Austin Dillon in the top 10.
With that fourth-place finish Elliott now holds a 13-point advantage on Blaney heading into next weekend’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond.
EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Circuit of The Americas
Sunday, March 27
Finishing order (start position), manufacturer, laps completed:
1. (16) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 69
2. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 69
3. (7) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 69
4. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 69
5. (4) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 69
6. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 69
7. (17) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 69
8. (10) Austin Cindric, Ford, 69
9. (30) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 69
10. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 69
11. (18) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 69
12. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 69
13. (27) Michael McDowell, Ford, 69
14. (26) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 69
15. (9) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 69
16. (29) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 69
17. (19) Harrison Burton, Ford, 69
18. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 69
19. (25) Aric Almirola, Ford, 69
20. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 69
21. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 69
22. (34) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 69
23. (3) Cole Custer, Ford, 69
24. (2) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 69
25. (31) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, 69
26. (37) Boris Said, Ford, 69
27. (35) Cody Ware, Ford, 69
28. (15) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 69
29. (13) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 69
30. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 69
31. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 69
32. (11) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 69
33. (20) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 68
34. (36) Loris Hezemans, Ford, mechanical, 62
35. (38) Joey Hand, Ford, suspension, 60
36. (32) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, engine, 57
37. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, drive train, 52
38. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, suspension, 44
39. (39) Andy Lally, Ford, suspension, 19
Average speed of winner: 70.253 mph.
Time of race: 3 hr, 20 min, 57 sec.
Margin of victory: 1.331 seconds.
Caution flags: 9 for 13 laps.
Lead changes: 13 among 9 drivers.
Stage 1 top ten: 99,12,48,22,5,31,9,14,21,2
Stage 2 top ten: 11,18,22,12,10,3,21,1,2,23