KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Less than a year after shocking the NASCAR world with his maiden Xfinity Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain broke through in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series on Friday night with a thrilling win in the Digital Ally 250 at Kansas Speedway.
Chastain appeared to be out of the running with 21 to go, after a huge slide off turn two while running second, but fought back from fifth to second and found himself in the right place at the right time when Stewart Friesen ran out of fuel with three laps to go.
That moment of heartbreak for Friesen allowed Chastain to shoot past into the race lead, a position the Florida watermelon farmer wouldn’t relinquish en route to another memorable and emotional moment in his NASCAR career.
Chastain appeared to be on top of the world last fall, after his Las Vegas win led to a full-time Xfinity Series ride with Chip Ganassi Racing. However, that deal fell through during the winter when sponsor DC Solar pulled out following an FBI raid and investigation into the company, leaving Chastain scrambling just to stay in the sport.
Friday night, after scratching and clawing to stay afloat and landing with United States veteran Al Niece in the Truck Series, Chastain found himself back on top again.
“This is what sports is all about!” Chastain exclaimed in victory lane. “Comebacks, man, comebacks.
“We had the world by the tail last fall and everything got taken away from us. We didn’t quit though,” added Chastain, whose win was the first for Niece’s organization. “Let me just say, I’m going to celebrate this one more than I did the last one. I thought they were going to come easier, but they just don’t. And for Niece Motorsports … this is such a small group. We get a lot of stuff from GMS and they were our biggest competition tonight.
“I hate to see Stewie (Stewart Friesen) lose one like that. I know he’s been trying to win, but we got it.”
Friesen dominated the majority of Friday night’s event, leading eight times for a race-high 87 laps, but the turning point in his race came with 41 laps left, when miscommunication between Friesen and crew chief Trip Bruce led Friesen to leave his pit stall with only two tires instead of a planned four-tire stop.
While the tire differential didn’t ultimately come back to haunt Friesen, who moved from a tight battle for the lead out to a five-second advantage after the stops cycled out the lack of fuel in his gas tank did.
Cautions with 29 and 20 laps to go – for a spinning Brett Moffitt and a stalled Josh Reaume, respectively – allowed Friesen to conserve some precious gas, but it wasn’t enough to keep him on-track in the end.
As the field crossed the line to take three laps to go, Friesen suddenly dropped to the apron, his No. 52 Chevrolet Silverado sputtering as Chastain rocketed past on the banking.
In that moment, the die was cast, as Chastain held off Ben Rhodes to notch his first Truck Series victory and second in one of NASCAR’s three national series.
Todd Gilliland finally had a trouble-free race and came home third, with two more Toyota Tundras in Austin Hill and Brandon Jones – who rallied back from a lap-26 spin – completing the top five.
Meanwhile, Friesen faded back to 15th in the final results, one lap down and ruing yet another near-miss in his pursuit of an elusive Truck Series victory.
“I don’t know what more we could have done,” Friesen lamented. “There was just a lot of miscommunication between me and Trip (Bruce) and it goes back a couple of weeks. We’ll work on it and get better. We had a fast hot rod tonight. … We just have to keep working at it.”
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.