By AMANDA VINCENT
After a physical battle with A.J. Allmendinger and Alex Bowman on the final lap of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Ross Chastain became s first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner in his 121st race in the series. He became the sixth different winner in the first six races of the season, the third first-time winner.
“To go up against some of the best with A.J. — I mean, I know he is going to be upset with me, but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one,” Chastain said. “But when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight. So Justin Marks (team owner), Trackhouse, AdventHealth, the Moose. A million Moose members, they better be celebrating tonight all across the country and the world. Phil Surgen [crew chief], man, he is so good. People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe Justin Marks hired me to drive this car.”
Chastain’s first win also was the first for Trackhouse Racing in its second year of competition, the first as a two-car team.
Bowman finished second, Christopher Bell was third, Chase Elliott fourth and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-five.
“We had a really fast Ally Chevrolet Camaro, and I have been trying to do a better job as a race car driver at these road courses, and I felt like from where I started the weekend, we accomplished that,” Bowman said. “So thanks to Greg (Ives, crew chief) and all the guys and really happy for Ross in getting his first win. It’s been a crap weekend, so I am ready to get home and see the dogs and move on to next weekend. But glad to come home with a second place finish.”
Allmendinger wound up 33rd after his last-lap spin from his late-race contact with Chastain and Bowman.
“This Action Industries Chevy was so fast, and our pit stops were great all day. If we had a long run, nobody was going to touch us,” Allmendinger said. “I’m so proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. All these men and women have had a lot of sleepless nights trying to just get these cars to the next race. I was doing everything I could do to try to sweep the weekend for them. We were that close. We know we had a shot to win the race. It’s tough to win a Cup race, so when you put yourself in a position to legitimately run up front all day and have a shot to win it, it’s a pretty great day. Unfortunately, just we needed about two more corners.”
Chastain led a race-high 31 laps of the race that was scheduled for 68 laps but extended an extra lap for an overtime restart that followed a lap-65 caution for an incident involving Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson.
Chastain dominated the second half of the race with Allmendinger running second for most of those laps.
The start of Sunday’s race also was a positive for Trackhouse Racing. Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suarez started on the front row and led the first 15 laps, taking the stage-one win on lap 15.
Suarez, though, spun with a flat tire and made an unscheduled pit stop early in the second stage.
Austin Cindric, then, led most of the second stage. After Chastain passed him for the lead with three laps remaining in stage two, both drivers pitted under green.
Denny Hamlin won the second stage before pitting during the caution that followed the stage.
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney stayed out after the second stage on lap 30, despite not having yet made their second pit stops. When the race restarted on lap 33, Chastain and Allmendinger moved into the too-two spots of the running order.
Blaney finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. was seventh, Cindric eighth, Erik Jones ninth, and Austin Cindric finished 10th.
Below, are the results of the EchoPark Automotive 400: