Sweet Home Chicago: Grant Park 220 preview, lineup, drivers to watch

The NASCAR Cup Series will make history today by racing around the 12-turn 2.2-mile street course around and in Grant Park in downtown Chicago in what will be NASCAR’s first ever street course race, the Grant Park 220, with the Chicago city skyline and Lake Michigan as the backdrop.

  • Preview
  • Qualifying report
  • Drivers to watch
  • Starting lineup 
Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Grant Park 220 will consist of 100 laps (220 miles), and will have three stages of 20, 25, and 55 laps but like road course races this season, there will be no stage ending cautions, giving crew chiefs more options with strategy.

The green flag has been moved up from 5:30pm ET to 5pm due to downtown Chicago receiving a month’s worth of rainfall in the last 24 hours with the intention of avoiding further weather however it will be a very wet start to the race at least.

Drivers on Saturday prior to qualifying did get some practice in light rain conditions but will possibly have to relearn the track in the anticipated tricky conditions.

Check NASCAR and the @PitCrew_Online on Twitter for updates.

Qualifying

Denny Hamlin knocked three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen off provisional pole, to secure his third pole of the season with a 1.28.435.

Hamlin said: “The course is actually very very good and raceable. I think there will be a ton of passing zones [in Sunday’s race].”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Yahoo! Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course on July 01, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Shane van Gisbergen, who is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut with the Trackhouse Racing Project 91 team, ended up third fastest in the top-10 shootout with a 1.28.588.

Shane van Gisbergen, driver of the No. 91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who Hamlin is the team co-owner of, qualified second with a 1.28.479.

Jenson Button, in his second Cup Series start with Rick Ware Racing, also made the top-10 shootout, qualifying eighth with a 1.29.571.

Mexico’s Daniel Suarez topped the Round 1 Group A qualifying session with a 1.28.755, with Larson, Button, Reddick, and Allmendinger joining him for the top-10 shootout.

Group B’s qualifying session was not so smooth with Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick crashing and bringing out two red flags in the session.

Elliott, while following Shane van Gisbergen, clipped the right hand wall going into turn eight and the hit the wall opposite head on. Harvick made the same mistake in turn one, hitting the wall hard.

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford took on damage during practice on the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Taylor Robbins/Race Service)

Polesitter Hamlin topped Group B with a 1.28.369, while van Gisbergen was second with a 1.28.509. Bell, McDowell, and Logano also joined them for the top-10 shootout.

Drivers to watch

In terms of one-lap pace, Hamlin, Reddick, and van Gisbergen were nearly a whole second quicker than the rest of the top-10 shootout contenders.

Van Gisbergen is a three-time and reigning Supercars champion in Australia and topped the practice charts on Saturday in what has been a mighty impressive performance so far from the New Zealander.

With the Gen 3 Supercars sharing many similarities with NASCAR’s Gen 7 car, Gisbergen who drives for the Red Bull Ampol Racing Chevrolet Camaro team in the series, is accustomed to racing heavy V8-powered muscle cars around street courses, with the Supercars series competing on several street courses each season such as in Newcastle, and Townsville, Australia.

Shane van Gisbergen, driver of the No. 91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

Shane van Gisbergen could very well take the chequered flag today, if he can carry over his experience, patience, and sensational car control and placement that he has shown in the Supercars series.

The NASCAR Cup Series regulars could come out on top by the end in Hamlin or Reddick, with Hamlin having one road course win at Watkins Glen, and Reddick winning three of the last six road course races, at Indianapolis Road Course, COTA, and Road America.

Martin Truex Jr. has been on fire lately, including winning the Sonoma road course race three weeks ago for a second consecutive year and has five road course wins to his name.

Chase Elliott, while not having been at his best this weekend, should not be dismissed, as he holds the highest number of road course wins amongst active drivers with seven, coming at five different road courses.

2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button finished 18th at NASCAR’s Cup Series race at COTA earlier this year. With improved pace on the field this weekend, and extensive experience driving in the wet, we could see Button dueling it out for a top-five finish or better today.

Jenson Button, driver of the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

Starting lineup 

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Tyler Reddick
  3. Shane van Gisbergen
  4. Christopher Bell
  5. Daniel Suarez
  6. Michael McDowell
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Joey Logano
  10. AJ Allmendinger
  11. Martin Truex Jr.
  12. Ty Gibbs
  13. Alex Bowman
  14. Bubba Wallace
  15. Chris Buescher
  16. Chase Briscoe
  17. Ryan Blaney
  18. Kyle Busch
  19. Corey LaJoie
  20. Brad Keselowski
  21. Erik Jones
  22. William Byron
  23. Noah Gragson
  24. Aric Almirola
  25. Todd Gilliland
  26. Chase Elliott
  27. Josh Bilicki
  28. Ryan Preece
  29. Austin Dillon
  30. Andy Lally
  31. Austin Cindric
  32. Harrison Burton
  33. Ty Dillon
  34. Ross Chastain
  35. Kevin Harvick
  36. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  37. Justin Haley

 

Featured Image: A general view of the setup for the Chicago Street Race frontstretch (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Larson in class of his own in North Wilkesboro All-Star Race

Larson gave the 23 other Cup drivers in what he described as an “old-school ass whipping” by comfortably winning his third All-Star Race in Sunday night’s 200-lap race around the revived North Wilkesboro Speedway, leading 145 laps, and taking home $1 million dollars.

  • Kyle Larson
  • Bubba Wallace
  • Rest of race recap
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Full race results

Larson’s strategy winning move came on lap 18 when crew chief Cliff Daniels had him pit for fresh tyres while the top half of the field stayed out including leaders Suarez and Hamlin, and despite receiving a speeding penalty for speeding on pit road that sent him to restart the race in the rear in 24th place, by lap 55 he was overtaking Daniel Suarez for the lead and pulled a 12-second lead by the time the 100-lap competition break came around.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet (1st), and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet (2nd), lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace attempted to match Larson’s pace in the final 100 laps but Larson maintained a four-second lead over the 23XI Racing driver to take himself with his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a third All-Star Race win at a third different track, the first two coming at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2019 and Texas Motor Speedway in 2021.

Larson said: “So much fun there. That was an old-school ass whipping, for sure. We had a great car on the long run there and was just thinking for sure there was going to be a caution. I got out to a big lead, and I could see everybody’s cars were driving like crap in front of me, but I cannot thank this 5 team enough.”

Larson was able to hook the bottom of the track including the apron in turns three and four while most of the other cars’ handling difficulties meant they lacked the capability to replicate his line with Wallace coming close, running a lane higher out of turn four.

While there was a lack of traditional short-track bumper banging, it was a real drivers race, with most only using seventy percent throttle at most around the track and having to control the amount of slipping and sliding, making it a real test of car control and tyre management.

A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Larson swept the weekend by also winning Saturday’s Truck Series 250-lap race, where he had to pass Bubba Wallace inside of 20 laps to go and hold him off in an overtime finish to take the chequered flag.

Larson equals Jeff Gordon, now Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with three All-Star wins. It’s Hendrick Motorsports 11th All-Star win, the most all-time.

Bubba Wallace adds to a string of recent strong performances by coming up deservingly in the runner-up spot.

Wallace was also on the same strategy as Larson, having pitted on lap 18 and found himself in eighth by lap 75 before a phenomenal charge up to second passing cars on older tyres except Larson in the closing laps before the competition break at lap 100.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet (front), and Bubba Wallace, the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota (behind), pits during qualifying heat #2 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wallace was unable to match Larson’s pace in the final 100 laps but was able to keep the rest of the field at bay including his 23XI Racing teammate Tyler Reddick who finished 3rd, making it a Toyota 23XI two-three finish.

Wallace said: “If this was any other race, I’d be excited, but for a million dollars to come up short and walk home with nothing. Tail tucked between our legs, but all in all, just continuing to ride the momentum train. Just have to keep it going. Now we show back up to home turf (for next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and really got to keep the momentum going there and get ourselves deeper into the Playoffs.”

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota, drives during the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

Rest of race recap

The inside groove at North Wilkesboro was king during the race. Chris Buescher who started outside pole, was unable to find a gap to fall into the inside lane of cars at the start of the race, and fell back to 11th as a result of being trapped on the outside.

A caution came out on lap 16, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. boldly came down the race track in front of a faster Erik Jones who spun him around as a result.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 STP Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Polesitter Daniel Suarez, who won heat race one on Saturday to secure the pole for Sunday’s All-Star Race, led the opening 55 laps of the race but chose not to pit on lap 18 for tyres, which saw Larson pass him easily on lap 55 on fresher tyres.

William Byron and Kyle Busch had such poor handling race cars, that both were forced to pit under green during the opening 100 laps to make adjustments, and went down a lap and two laps to the leader respectively as a result.

Despite everyone pitting for tyres and fuel during the competition break on lap 100, now that Larson had taken the lead, there was no looking back for the Californian, who led the rest of the race in dominating fashion.

Coca-Cola 600

This Sunday as part of Memorial Day Weekend in the United States, the NASCAR Cup Series will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of it’s crown jewel events following IndyCar’s Indy 500, the Coca-Cola 600; a 400 lap (600 mile) race around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The green flag flies at 6pm ET. Follow ThePitCrewOnline’s twitter @PitCrew_Online for live updates and reporting of the Coca-Cola 600.

Featured Image: Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, celebrates with the one million dollar check in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Full race results

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Daniel Suarez
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Ty Gibbs
  10. Joey Logano
  11. Ross Chastain
  12. Christopher Bell
  13. Denny Hamlin
  14. Martin Truex Jr.
  15. Josh Berry
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Austin Dillon
  18. Kevin Harvick
  19. Brad Keselowski
  20. William Byron
  21. Austin Cindric
  22. Kyle Busch
  23. Noah Gragson
  24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

The Track of Dreams: North Wilkesboro All-Star Race Format and Lineup

NASCAR is returning to the legendary 0.625-mile North Wilkesboro Speedway as part of its 75th anniversary to run its All-Star Race where the winner will take home $1 million dollars.

  • North Wilkesboro Speedway
  • Format
  • Heat races
  • All-Star Open lineup
  • All-Star Race lineup
  • Drivers to watch
  • Notable paint schemes

Located in the heart of NASCAR country, Wilkes County, NASCAR, Marcus Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and the local community have spent the last year restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway to its former glory while making it a venue fit for a modern day NASCAR Cup Series race after the track was abandoned by NASCAR in 1996 in pursuit of furthering national expansion efforts beyond the Southeast into it’s schedule to grow regional markets.

NASCAR has now come home though, returning to its roots in what many are calling the ‘Field of Dreams of Racing’.

Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet sits on display at North Wilkesboro Speedway in NASCAR’s return to Wilkes County (Zack Albert/NASCAR Studios)

New grandstands have been built, a freshly repaved pit road has been put down, and the cracks in the asphalt filled in. Surrounding this though still is much of its history, with old signage including the original scoreboard have remained in place and the original walls and buildings also kept wherever possible including the famous NASCAR Winston Cup Series wall.

The track has been described as a cheese grater by the drivers who have teared around the half mile track of dreams so far this week such as in the CARS Tour Late Model race on Wednesday, the NASCAR Truck Series 250-lap race on Saturday, and during the various practice sessions.

Format

Sunday night’s All-Star Race will consist of 200 laps with a break at 100 laps while the 100-lap All-Star Open race being run prior to decide the final three spots to make up the 24 car field for the All-Star Race.

A general view of NASCAR Cup Series drivers (Back Row L-R) Ryan Blaney, Josh Bilicki, Erik Jones, Noah Gragson, Aric Almirola, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain, Ty Gibbs, Bubba Wallace, Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric, Martin Truex Jr., (Front Row L-R) Chandler Smith, Harrison Burton, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano, William Byron, Justin Haley, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece, JJ Yeley, and Tyler Reddick pose on track for a photo at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The green flag for the 100-lap All-Star Open will fly at 5:30pm ET while the All-Star Race will begin at 8pm ET.

In the All-Star Open there will be a competition break around lap 40. The top-two finishers will advance to the All-Star Race as well as the fan vote driver (the driver from the All-Star Open who received the most fan votes to advance to the All-Star Race).

For the All-Star Race, there are three sets of sticker tyres allocated to each team in addition to the sticker set they start on. Strategy will come into play in when to and when not to take tyres due to the high falloff with over a second a falloff being seen in the lap times in a matter of laps around the historic half mile.

To complicate matters further, only one additional set of sticker tyres can be used following the competition break.

Eligibility to be locked into the All-Star Race is if a driver is a previous champion of the sport or previous All-Star Race winner that is currently competing full-time, or has won a Cup Series points paying race in the 2022 or 2023 season.

The Grand Marshals for the  All-Star Race will be seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty and three-time Cup cahmpion Darrell Waltrip who combined have won 25 Cup races at North Wilkesboro, Petty 15 to Waltrip’s 10.

The Honorary Starter will be Ray Evernham, three-time Cup Series champion crew chief.

The Honorary Pace Car Driver will be Jeff Gordon, four-time Cup Series champion driver who won the very last Cup race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996.

The track itself sees 13 degrees of banking in both turns one and two, and three and four ,with the a downhill frontstrectch and an uphill backstretch.

Heat races

The starting lineup for the All-Star Race was decided in Saturday night’s two 60-lap heat races with heat race one determining the inside row lineup and heat race two the outside.

Daniel Suarez won heat one in damp conditions to start on pole for the All-Star Race while Chris Buescher led every single lap of heat two that a saw a switch onto rain tyres on lap 25, to start alongside the Mexican.

Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, leads the field during qualifying heat #2 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

All-Star Open Lineup

Friday’s Pit Crew Challenge won by the Ty Gibbs No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Team determined the starting lineup for the heat races as well as the All-Star Open, with Gibbs securing the pole for the All-Star Open due to not being locked into the main event.

NORTH WILKESBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 19: Pit crew members of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leaps into action
during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race Qualifying Pit Crew Challenge at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The All-Star Open lineup is as follows.

Position Driver
1st Ty Gibbs
2nd Josh Berry
3rd Corey LaJoie
4th Harrison Burton
5th Justin Haley
6th Michael McDowell
7th Todd Gilliland
8th

9th

10th

11th

12th

13th

14th

15th

16th

Ryan Preece

Aric Almirola

AJ Allmendinger

Josh Bilicki

Ty Dillon

Chandler Smith

Ryan Newman

Noah Gragson

JJ Yeley

All-Star Race Lineup

The first 21 of 24 positions with the final three to come from the All-Star Open are as follows.

*Josh Berry won the All-Star Open with Ty Gibbs being the runner up. Noah Gragson won the Fan Vote. All three advance through to the All-Star Race. Berry, Gibbs, and Gragson, will start 22nd, 23rd, and 24th respectively.

Position Driver
1st Daniel Suarez
2nd Chris Buescher
3rd Joey Logano
4th Austin Dillon
5th Chase Briscoe
6th William Byron
7th Christopher Bell
8th

9th

10th

11th

12th

13th

14th

15th

16th

17th

18th

19th

20th

21st

Brad Keselowski

Denny Hamlin

Bubba Wallace

Ryan Blaney

Martin Truex Jr.

Chase Elliott

Kyle Busch

Kevin Harvick

Kyle Larson

Austin Cindric

Ross Chastain

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Tyler Reddick

Erik Jones

Drivers to watch

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson have both won two All-Star Races, in 2007/2018 and 2019/2021 respectively and with Kyle Larson winning the 250-lap NASCAR Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro in dominating fashion leading over half the laps, he is one of the favourites to make it a third All-Star Race win.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson was joined by four other Cup regulars for Saturday’s truck race, in Chastain, Bell, Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron.

They all saw action at the front, most notably Bell and Larson charging through the field together to the front in stage one, Larson and Byron duelling for the lead in the final stage, and Larson passing Wallace, who was on older tyres inside of 20 laps to go, and holding him off in an overtime finish, to go onto the win the race.

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 1 Pristine Auction Toyota, leads the field during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The more in-race track time the better prepared a driver will be for the All-Star Race due to having to rely on old data, and sim time prior to this week.

Ryan Blaney is the reigning All-Star Race winner having won the 2022 All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish.

Chase Elliott won the 2020 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway that was accompanied by all car having fluorescent light bars attached to the rear of the cars that made it quite the spectacle around the colosseum.

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet, race during qualifying heat #1 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman all have one All-Star Race win, all having come at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the event was held in 1985 and then from 1987-2019.

Notable paint schemes

Erik Jones is piloting the No. 43 STP LEGACY MOTOR CLUB Chevrolet that is throwing it back to Richard Petty, who won 15 times at North Wilkesboro in the Cup Series, including eight time while racing STP colours.

Erik Jones, driver of the #43 STP Chevrolet, exits the track during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick is throwing back to his 2001 Atlanta scheme when he was promoted to the Cup Series by Richard Childress Racing following the tragic passing of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. It is Harvick’s final full-time season before retiring.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Busch Light Ford, drives during Heat Race No. 1 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Michael McDowell is racing the No. 34 Ford that is throwing it back to Mark Martin’s 1990 Cup win at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Follow ThePitCrewOnline’s twitter @PitCrew_Online for live updates and reporting of the All-Star Open and All-Star Race.  

Featured Image: Erik Jones, driver of the #43 STP Chevrolet, exits the track during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch wins final Auto Club Speedway Cup race in Rowdy fashion

Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 saw Kyle Busch outrun Chase Elliott’s late race charge to win NASCAR’s final Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in its two-mile superspeedway format before being taken off the schedule to be reconfigured most likely into a short track of one mile or less.  

  • Race summary
  • Rest of race recap
  • Full race results
  • Point standings

Kyle Busch’s first win of the 2023 Cup Series season, in just his second points paying race with Richard Childress Racing, sees him go above Richard Petty for the most consecutive seasons with at least one win, making it 19-consecutive seasons, starting in 2005.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Busch mirrored his previous triumph here when he won the 2005 Auto Club Cup race, his first Cup win, in just his fourth start for Hendrick Motorsports.

Talking on the frontstretch after the race Busch said: “I death gripped that wheel throughout the second half of that race, we held on man, we got it today.”

The four-time Fontana winner teared back through the field in what seemed like a handful of laps, after being penalised and sent to the rear for speeding on pit road on lap 43 under caution, after running inside the top 10.

Busch took the lead of the race for the first time with 63 laps to go, then again with 36 laps to go after passing Chastain through the green flag pit cycle and then again following green flag pit stops on lap 180 of the 200-lap race where he would stay.

Busch added: “I’ve worked with a lot of great people who’ve given me a lot of great opportunities in my career. It’s awesome to be able to reward them.”

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

It was Busch’s 61st Cup career win, ninth-all time.

The track proved to entertain much like last year with drivers using all five lanes to race and search for clean air, but this time without any sudden tyre failures.

It was Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain that spent the most time upfront, winning both stages convincingly, leading the most laps with 91 and coming home third. He has won three of the four stages this year, including winning stage two of last week’s Daytona 500.

Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suarez showed speed, racing in the top 10, and was looking for a way past Chastain for the lead on the opening laps of a stage one restart. Suarez finished fourth.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Chase Elliott was in the mix during the second half of the race, slowly working his way through the top 10 until he got past Chastain for second with 21 laps to go and narrowed the gap to Busch down to 3.4 seconds before the gap levelled out. Elliott finished 2.998-seconds behind Busch.

Joey Logano had been a contender for most of the race, taking the lead multiple times from Chastain and Hamlin, until the final stint following green flag pit stops with under 40 laps to go, where he dropped back throughout the final run to finish 10th.

It had been the Chastain-Logano-Busch show previous to final green flag pit stops. With 55 laps to go, Chastain threw an aggressive block on Logano when he and Busch got stalled out side-by-side for the lead, but Logano swept down to the apron and cleared both going into turn one.

Rest of race recap

Saturday’s qualifying was cancelled due to a historic weather event that swept the racetrack including blizzard-like conditions of snow, sleet and wind, hitting Fontana and the surrounding LA area Friday and Saturday.

A five-wide salute was shown to the sell-out crowd on the warm-up laps in appreciation of their continued support and love given to Auto Club Speedway.

Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Sirius XM Toyota, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, driver of the #47 Ralphs/Tree Top Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AAA Southern California Ford, Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, and Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Pala Casino Ford, in a five-wide salute to the fans prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2023 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

It was Bakersfield, California’s Kevin Harvick 750th straight Cup start, only behind Jeff Gordon and Ricky Rudd for all-time.

JGR’s Christopher Bell led from the off after being awarded the pole due to having the best fastest lap speed and finishing position combination from last week’s Daytona 500.

Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Sirius XM Toyota, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr, driver of the #47 Ralphs/Tree Top Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2023 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Alex Bowman, who finished eighth, took the lead on lap two going into turn one and went straight to the top groove while the rest of the field searched all over the race track for grip.

A lack of rubber being laid down prior to the race due to the weather, saw everyone run the top groove following Bowman but before long drivers throughout the field were diving to the middle and bottom lanes again to find extra speed and clean air while the top was still preferred.

A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2023 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

On lap 13, Kyle Larson, last year’s Fontana winner, came down pit road and went to the garage to fix an electrical problem. Larson did go back out but was not operating under full power. The Cali kid finished 29th, 15 laps down.

Chastain took over the lead on pit road during the competition caution period on lap 17.

Team Penske’s Logano and Ryan Blaney traded the lead after surpassing Chastain before Brad Keselowski was sent spinning down the back straightaway after Corey LaJoie tagged his left rear on lap 42.

Keselowski was running 13th place at the time and came back to finish seventh, in what was a solid day for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing with teammate Chris Buescher running inside the top 10 throughout the race before finishing 13th.

Blaney and Suarez kept Chastain honest at the end of the first stage but it wasn’t enough to beat the eighth-generation watermelon farmer to the finish line.

Denny Hamlin passed Chastain for the lead on lap 72 before he threw an aggressive block three-laps later on Logano, much like Chastain would later on in the race, but Logano dived to the inside to take the lead on the frontstretch.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Southern California Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Austin Dillon and Noah Gragson briefly led during stage two after staying out on older tyres before Logano seized back the lead.

Corey LaJoie continued to find himself in trouble. On lap 76, he clipped AJ Allmendinger trying to avoid Blaney and Stenhouse Jr. in front, sending the Californian skidding into the inside wall on the backstretch.

LaJoie became the victim of the next caution several laps later when Tyler Reddick ran into the back of him sending him into the infield grass.

The biggest incident of the day was yet to come. On the lap 86 restart a 10-car crash occurred when the field stacked up sending Ty Dillon spinning into the grass, and Bell, Reddick, Preece, and Almirola crashing into the pack among others.

All four except Ty Dillon would retire from the race, only for Dillon to retire later with 61 laps to go due to engine trouble. Blaney received heavy damage from the crash and had to settle for 26th.

Kyle Busch would take second away from former teammate Hamlin on lap 93 while Chastain led. Busch was filling Chastain’s mirrors inside of 20 to go in stage two; a blanket could be thrown over second to sixth place in the closing laps. Chastain won stage two with a six second lead over Busch.

Kevin Harvick, in his final season before retiring, got the lead on pit road during the stage break before Kyle Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 138.

Michael McDowell led for a handful of laps during the final green flag run as he held out for a caution compared to most of the field pitting 10+ laps earlier. On fresher tyres following his final pit stop, McDowell managed to finish 18th.

Bubba Wallace spent the first half of the race inside the top 15, often inside the top 10, but overheating issues would force him out of the race on lap 172.

The third race of the season sees the Cup Series go to the 1.5 mile speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday, Kyle Busch’s home track, for the Pennzoil 400 with the race starting at 3:30pm ET.

Full race results 

  1. Kyle Busch, 200
  2. Chase Elliott, 200
  3. Ross Chastain, 200
  4. Daniel Suarez, 200
  5. Kevin Harvick, 200
  6. Denny Hamlin, 200
  7. Brad Keselowski, 200
  8. Alex Bowman, 200
  9. Austin Dillon, 200
  10. Joey Logano, 200
  11. Martin Truex Jr., 200
  12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 200
  13. Chris Buescher, 200
  14. Corey LaJoie, 200
  15. Harrison Burton, 200
  16. Ty Gibbs, 200
  17. Todd Gilliland, 200
  18. Michael McDowell, 200
  19. Erik Jones, 200
  20. Chase Briscoe, 200
  21. Justin Haley, 199
  22. Noah Gragson, 199
  23. JJ Yeley, 199
  24. BJ McLeod, 199
  25. William Byron, 198
  26. Ryan Blaney, 196
  27. Cody Ware, 195
  28. Austin Cindric, 194
  29. Kyle Larson, 185
  30. Bubba Wallace, Engine, 172
  31. Ty Dillon, Engine, 140
  32. Christopher Bell, Accident, 88
  33. Ryan Preece, Accident, 87
  34. Tyler Reddick, Accident, 87
  35. Aric Almirola, Accident, 86
  36. AJ Allmendinger, Accident, 75

Stage 1 

  1. Ross Chastain
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Daniel Suarez
  4. Alex Bowman
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. William Byron
  7. Joey Logano
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Martin Truex Jr.
  10. Chase Elliott

Stage 2 

  1. Ross Chastain
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Daniel Suarez
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Chase Elliott
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. Brad Keselowski
  10. Corey LaJoie

Points standings 

  1. Ross Chastain – 92
  2. Joey Logano – 91
  3. Alex Bowman – 80
  4. Kevin Harvick – 79
  5. Daniel Suarez – 77
  6. Chris Buescher – 74
  7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* – 73
  8. Kyle Busch* – 67
  9. Denny Hamlin – 64
  10. Brad Keselowski – 64
  11. Martin Truex Jr. – 60
  12. Ryan Blaney – 57
  13. Corey LaJoie – 51
  14. Chase Elliott – 49
  15. Christopher Bell – 49
  16. Michael McDowell – 40

  17. Ty Gibbs – 38
  18. Austin Cindric – 38
  19. AJ Allmendinger – 35
  20. Harrison Burton – 35
  21. Todd Gilliland – 35
  22. Cody Ware – 33
  23. Austin Dillon – 32
  24. Kyle Larson – 32
  25. Aric Almirola – 31
  26. Bubba Wallace – 28
  27. Noah Gragson – 28
  28. Travis Pastrana – 26
  29. William Byron – 25
  30. Justin Haley – 21
  31. BJ McLeod – 20
  32. Erik Jones – 19
  33. Chase Briscoe – 19
  34. Ryan Preece – 15
  35. J.J. Yeley – 14
  36. Jimmie Johnson – 10
  37. Ty Dillon – 7
  38. Tyler Reddick – 4

Featured Image: Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

Daniel Suárez becomes first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup race

After running inside the top five for the first two stages, Daniel Suárez controlled the race at the front for the final stage, holding off challenges from Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick for the final 40 laps before pulling a four second lead heading to the chequered flag to get his first NASCAR Cup Series victory by winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway road course on Sunday.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This was Suárez’s 195th career start in the Cup Series and his sixth season since joining the top division in 2017. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Suárez becomes the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup race and joins the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 2007 Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in his rookie year, in being the fifth foreign driver to win a Cup race.

Daniel Suárez celebrates with a Mexican flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Suárez also joins Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe in becoming the fourth first-time winner in the Cup Series in 2022.

Daniel Suárez celebrates by drinking wine in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Speaking to FOX’s Jamie Little Suárez said: “A lot of people in Mexico, my family, they never gave up on me, a lot of people did but they didn’t. This is the first one of many.” Suárez was Trackhouse Racing’s first driver in the Cup Series when they entered in 2021 after buying Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operation.

For Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick, both had opportunities in the final stage to take the lead away but were unable to find a way past the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Buescher, who was unable to race last week at WWT Raceway due to testing positive for Covid, had initially led the start of stage three but went wide at both turns four and seven and would drop back to fourth, handing the lead to Suárez.

Harvick moved up to second and was pressuring Suárez in what was a three-car battle for the lead for two laps before Buescher dived down the inside of Harvick in turn 11 to retake second.

On a restart with 23 laps to go, Suárez got a great launch over Buescher, but four laps later had to go defensive into turn 11 to cover Buescher off. With Buescher appearing unwilling to use the bumper with over 15 laps to go, Buescher would then proceed to slip back reporting he had weak forward drive and with five laps to go, Suárez had built a five second lead over him.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, leads Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talking to FOX, Buescher said: “I’m just disappointed with myself, didn’t get the job done there when it counted.” Both Buescher and Harvick were looking for their first win of the season.

Suárez smashed a taco piñata in celebration.

Suárez was not looking to be the race favourite as that went to Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, as Larson and Elliott have dominated the road courses in recent years, but due to poor execution on pit road resulting in penalties, Larson would only manage 15th while Elliott finished eighth.

Kyle Larson was the reigning race winner and led the field to green before leading all 25 laps of stage one. Larson chose to go for the stage win instead of pitting for tyres and fuel prior to the end of stage one and would consequently start 24th. In the 2021 race, Larson was able to work his way to the front in stage two, but was only up to 14th when he and everyone pitted again.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, leads the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

On the final pit stop with 28 laps to go, Larson’s crew would fail to get the front right tyre secured and instead Larson’s tyre came off the car in turn two after exiting the pits bringing out the caution and ending any hopes of a race win. His crew chief Cliff Daniels, and two crew members were all given a four-race suspension for the incident.

Elliott had ran inside the top three in stage one, only getting overtaken by Buescher for second with four laps to go in the stage before giving up stage points and pitting in exchange for a good starting spot for stage two. Elliott led most of stage two with Buescher following him and at one point had an eight second lead over then third place Suárez.

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, nears the wall exiting Turn 4A and heads down the short chute to turn 7 with Buescher, Chastain and Suarez behind (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Digital Media)

In Elliott’s pit stop sequence at the end of stage two, disaster struck when Elliott was called back to the pit box by crew chief Alan Gustafson for having a loose left rear wheel but failed to get his car fully inside the box and instead the team serviced his car resulting in a costly penalty that saw Elliott start from the rear of the field for the final stage.

Elliott however was successful in delivering Hendrick Motorsports its 100,000 mile in leading Cup races during stage two. They are the first organization to reach the milestone.

Road course veteran Michael McDowell would finish third in the end after qualifying fourth and moving up to third in the opening laps before fighting amongst the top ten for the majority of the race.

Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, racing in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 with Chris Buescher, Daniel Suárez and Tyler Reddick behind (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Apart from Larson’s loose wheel, the only other cause for caution came on lap 10 when Bubba Wallace’s engine let go.

After already spinning out in stage one, Erik Jones during stage two spun out trying to pass on the inside entering turn seven. Suárez’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain then performed a carbon copy of it a few laps trying to pass Suárez and fell back from fourth to seventh. Chastain had ran ahead of Suárez in third earlier in the stage.

Daniel Suárez (front) paces Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain (behind), driver of the No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Joey Logano, after concluding they didn’t have a race winning car, decided to stay out at the end of stage two to bag a stage win and a playoff point. Logano fired off 24th at the start of stage three and finished 17th.

AJ Allmendinger had an incredible afternoon as despite having lost power steering early on in the race, he broke into the top 10 inside of 20 laps to go. Allmendinger risked bringing out the caution with two laps to go when he went off in turn three, the sight visible to “Daniel’s Amigos” who had been cheering Suárez on every lap, but Allmendinger got going, and the race stayed green until Suárez took the chequered flag.

FOX’s Mike Joy said: “You’ve got to love it when nice guys finish first.”

The FOX Deportes broadcast team enjoyed the win too!

The NASCAR Cup Series returns in two weeks time when they race at Nashville Superspeedway in the Ally 400.

Full race results: 1st Daniel Suárez, 2nd Chris Buescher, 3rd Michael McDowell, 4th Kevin Harvick, 5th Austin Cindric, 6th Ryan Blaney, 7th Ross Chastain, 8th Chase Elliott, 9th William Byron, 10th Brad Keselowski, 11th Austin Dillon, 12th Justin Haley, 13th Chase Briscoe, 14th Aric Almirola, 15th Kyle Larson, 16th Alex Bowman, 17th Joey Logano, 18th Kurt Busch, 19th AJ Allmendinger, 20th Joey Hand, 21st Cole Custer, 22nd Erik Jones, 23rd Ty Dillon, 24th Todd Gilliland, 25th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 26th Martin Truex Jr., 27th Christopher Bell, 28th Harrison Burton, 29th Josh Bilicki, 30th Kyle Busch, 31st Denny Hamlin, 32nd Cody Ware, 33rd Scott Heckert, 34th Corey Lajoie, 35th Tyler Reddick, 36th Bubba Wallace

Stage 1 results: 1st Kyle Larson, 2nd Joey Logano, 3rd Kyle Busch, 4th Justin Haley, 5th Aric Almirola, 6th Harrison Burton, 7th Josh Bilicki, 8th Kurt Busch, 9th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10th Cody Ware.

Stage 2 results: 1st Joey Logano, 2nd Aric Almirola, 3rd Chris Buescher, 4th Daniel Suárez, 5th Kevin Harvick, 6th Todd Gilliland, 7th Harrison Burton, 8th Michael McDowell, 9th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10th Ryan Blaney.

Featured Image: Daniel Suárez , driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

How Charlotte’s 600 escalated into Talladega chaos

From Ryan Blaney causing The Big One, to Chris Buescher barrel-rolling down the infield grass, NASACR’s Coca-Cola 600 last weekend was far from the usually more tame and methodical 600 mile race and instead was one of the most dramatic and longest stock car races in recent history. 

This year’s “longest night in stock car racing” didn’t even start off like a typical Coca-Cola 600 as by the end of stage one there had been four cautions not including the stage ending caution for Chase Elliott’s stage one win.

Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In recent editions of the race, the first half or more has been comprised of long green flag runs and a strung out field but this race was not like the others. One large contributor to more spins in the race such as Kyle Busch spinning out as Daniel Suárez ran him tight in turns one and two in stage one, is that the new NASCAR Cup cars are much harder to save once the car steps out and begins spinning compared to the old 6th gen NASCAR. With little practice time before the races and spec parts that teams are not allowed to modify, not to mention the absence of in-car adjustments for drivers during the race, the challenge is only heightened.

Late on in stage two, Ryan Blaney spun out in front of the pack in turns one and two causing The Big One that is usually only seen at Daytona and Talladega. Over ten cars were caught up in the pile up.

Aside from the several spin-outs by drivers in the first two stages, there had been thrilling side by side action with many drivers fighting over positions throughout the field including for the lead with Suárez who would go on to take the stage two win after fending off Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain and Erik Jones.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, and Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The NASCAR drivers were racing in honour of fallen veterans as the Coca-Cola 600 runs on Memorial Day Weekend. During the stage two break, for the second year running, NASCAR brought the cars down pit road and parked them and paused the race to take a moment to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Drivers and  pit crews pause for a moment of remembrance in the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The second half of the race proved only to be more wild as the 16th caution of the night came out halfway in stage four when Chris Buescher, after piling into a spinning Daniel Suárez , was sent skidding across the infield grass before the car got hooked causing it to flip over wildly several times before coming to a stop upside down . Buescher’s car was righted by the AMR safety team. He was ok.

With two laps to go in the race Kyle Larson was holding off Chase Briscoe for the lead. Larson’s night had been a rollercoaster ride in itself. After qualifying 36th and making his way through to the top half of the field, Larson would get two pit equipment interference penalties in quick succession that sent him to the rear each time. His car also caught fire forcing him to take two emergency trips down pit road. He then spun out on old tyres in turn four in stage two after having led the race on the previous restart. With plenty of laps left and plenty of cautions to bunch up the field, Larson was able to finish third in stage three and get by Chastain, the stage three winner, in turn three to take the lead with 46 laps to go.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Larson’s amazing comeback would be halted when Briscoe spun out on his own in turns one and two with two laps to go as he sent it into turn one in an attempt to pass Larson.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The first overtime restart saw Laron’s chance of another Coca-Cola 600 win come to an end as Austin Dillon had got alongside him in turns three and four before washing up and slowing them down before Hamlin and Chastain joined them to make it four wide coming off turn four heading to get the white flag. They would only see yellow as Dillon drifted up slightly and would get turned around off of Larson’s front bumper causing another multi-car crash down the front straightaway with Larson caught in it.

Instead it would come down to Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch for the 600 win on the next overtime restart. Polesitter Hamlin would race side by side with Busch for the first lap but would clear Busch in turns one and two on the final lap to finally win his first Coca-Cola 600.

Hamlin said: It’s so special. It’s the last big one that’s not on my resume. It meant so much.”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red White and Blue Toyota, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was NASCAR’s longest Cup race in history in terms of distance with the drivers having raced for 619.5 miles (413 laps) before taking the checkered flag and was the third longest Coca-Cola 600 ever after having raced for five hoursthirteen minutes, and eight seconds. It was only 34 seconds shy of being longer than the second longest Coca-Cola 600 race in 2005. The first Coca-Cola 600 in 1960 had been the longest being five hours and thirty four minutes long.

The 2022 edition of the Coca-Cola 600 had been one of the most competitive and action packed thrillers in years and delivered a race on a weekend where the world was watching after the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500 earlier that day, making it an unforgettable day in racing.

Full race results: 1st Denny Hamlin, 2nd Kyle Busch, 3rd Kevin Harvick, 4th Chase Briscoe, 5th Christopher Bell, 6th Tyler Reddick, 7th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 8th Michael McDowell, 9th Kyle Larson, 10th Alex Bowman, 11th Harrison Burton, 12th Martin Truex Jr., 13th Ty Dillon, 14th Erik Jones, 15th Ross Chastain, 16th Todd Gilliland, 17th Aric Almirola, 18th Cody Ware, 19th BJ McLeod, 20th Joey Logano, 21st Cole Custer, 22nd Austin Dillon, 23rd Kaz Grala, 24th Noah Gragson, 25th Daniel Suárez, 26th Chris Buescher, 27th Justin Haley, 28th Bubba Wallace, 29th Ryan Blaney, 30th Brad Keselowski, 31st Kurt Busch, 32nd William Byron, 33rd Chase Elliott, 34th Austin Cindric, 35th Corey Lajoie, 36th Josh Bilicki, 37th Ryan Preece.

Featured Image: Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, flips into the infield grass after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

 

Watermelons were smashed: Ross Chastain’s week as a first-time NASCAR Cup winner

Watermelon farmer turned NASCAR Cup racer Ross Chastain smashed out his first career win at Circuit of the Americas in final lap brawl.

On the hottest day of the year just outside of Austin, Texas, the NASCAR race at COTA came down to an overtime finish between Ross Chastain, road-course ringer AJ Allmendinger and Hendrick’s Alex Bowman.

On the final restart, it was Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick who led the field to green with Ross Chastain right beside him in second, but Chastain used the chrome horn and power moved by Reddick in the S’s to retake the lead.

Reddick would fall back to sixth while Chastain would take the white flag and would lead the break away with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman in tandem.

Ross Chastain racing witth AJ Allmendinger right behind him (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Allmendinger closed up to Chastain in the turn 12 heavy braking zone and would continue to fill his mirrors up in turns 13 and 14 before sticking his Camaro up the inside of Chastain in turn 15, consequently pushing Chastain wide after he tried to cover him off.

Chastain would get passed by Bowman too after he dived past him on the inside of 18 while Chastain returned the favour to Allmendinger going into the penultimate corner, using him as a braking block. Allmendinger’s car stepped out on him and flew into Bowman who was alongside him. Allmendinger ended up backwards in the sand while Bowman had to take evasive action to avoid him. Chastain went on to take the checkered flag.

The highly anticipated ritual-like smashing of the watermelon was performed by Chastain on the straightaway from on top of his ONX Homes/iFly Camaro. Chastain was so thrilled he ate the juicy fruit while being interviewed, saying to FOX, “it’s never tasted sweeter.”

Ross Chastain, celebrates further by eating the smashed watermelon (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

It was also Trackhouse Racing’s first Cup win and was quite the birthday present for co-team owner Justin Marks.

Celebrations continued throughout the first half of the week with Chastain’s own Melon Man Brand, a grassroots lifestyle organisation uniting all watermelon lovers, putting up pre-orders for a most appropriate T-shirt on Tuesday to mark the iconic moment.

Co-team owner Mr. Worldwide also put out a congratulatory post to his driver and team.

It was not the end of Ross’s ‘victory lap’ either. On FOX’s own NASCAR Race Hub, Chastain taught Jimmie Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus the arts of watermelon smashing.

Back at the race shop on Tuesday, Team Trackhouse were all bought a celebratory breakfast. Watermelon may or may not have been present.

Back to Sunday’s race, other drivers had found to be fast throughout the race, most notably Team Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suárez, who after starting second would take the lead away from polesitter Ryan Blaney on the opening lap. Suárez would go onto win the first stage of the race. He had a not so fun experience on the restart however, finding himself spinning around while in a five-wide mess in turn one. Denny Hamlin, in desperate need of points, would sacrifice track position and stay out to win stage two.

Daniel Suárez spinning out in turn one (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Ford drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric would also be at the front throughout much of the race but not when Cindric brought out the first non-scheduled caution of the day for spinning coming out of the turn 10 kink, with Christopher Bell narrowly avoiding him by a whisker. The race would go to overtime when Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano came together in the turn one sandpit.

Bowman, Bell, Elliott, and Reddick made up the top five finishing order.

Featured Image: Ross Chastain, celebrates after winning at COTA (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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