MADISON, Ill. – Redemption was on the mind of Ross Chastain Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway and that’s exactly what he got.
One week after Chastain and his Niece Motorsports team were disqualified after winning in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series competition at Iowa Speedway, Chastain and company rebounded in the best way possible with a victory in the CarShield 200.
“These guys went home and we were mad. We felt like we had one taken away from us,” Chastain said about the disqualification last week at Iowa Speedway.
The victory was the result of a gamble by Chastain’s crew chief Phil Gould, who called for a fuel-only pit stop during the final round of pit stops. At the time Chastain was chasing Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie Christian Eckes, who had driven by Chastain to take the lead shortly after a restart with 75 to go.
Eckes pitted with 29 laps left and took two tires and fuel, with Chastain following one lap later for his fuel-only stop. That allowed Chastain to cycle out in front of Eckes and inherit the race lead with 18 laps left.
“I didn’t want to take tires. It was up to me to freaking hold them off. I don’t know how,” Chastain said.
Chastain was still the leader when the final caution flag of the night waved with 14 laps left when Harrison Burton and Sheldon Creed made contact, sending Burton around and into the outside wall in turns one and two.
The resulting caution period allowed Eckes and the rest of the field to close the gap on Chastain, who now had to survive a restart if he was hoping to make it into victory lane.
“That was the last thing I wanted to see,” Chastain said of the caution.
The race resumed with seven laps left and Chastain spun his tires, but a big push from third-place Todd Gilliland allowed Chastain to hold serve and pull clear of Eckes coming out of turn two.
Eckes stayed glued to the bumper of Chastain for the next several laps, never letting Chastain get more than a car length ahead of him. Gilliland and Stewart Friesen were also in the mix as the top-four closed in on the white flag.
Coming to the white flag out of turn four Eckes slipped up the track, opening the door for Gilliland to move to his inside and take second. That allowed Chastain to build a gap on his pursuers with one lap left.
In turn one Eckes tried to make a crossover move on Gilliland to regain second, but contact from Friesen sent Eckes spinning. All of that happened well behind Chastain, who crossed the finish line .704 of a second clear of Gilliland to earn his second victory of the season.
“I buzzed my tires like crazy (on the restart). I’ve got to thank Todd (Gilliland) for pushing me and not wrecking me,” said Chastain, who also earned a $50,000 bonus for winning the final race of the Triple Truck Challenge. “We didn’t have the fastest truck today, but we executed and we believed in each other. Man, that feels really good.”
Chastain is now playoff eligible, but must make it into the top-20 in Truck Series points if he hopes to qualify for the playoffs. He is currently 44 points outside of the top-20.
Friesen ended up third after the contact with Eckes on the final lap. Chandler Smith, who started 25th, came through the field to finish fourth. Brett Moffitt completed the top-five.
Eckes, who led a race-high 57 laps, ended up 14th after the spin on the final lap.
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