NEWTON, Iowa — The scene around the No. 4 car was one of celebration, congratulations and well wishes from teammates and crewmen alike following the NASCAR XFINITY Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway.
Ross Chastain had just notched his best finish in 87 starts in the XFINITY Series — a fourth-place result — and the best result in the 16-year history of JD Motorsports with Gary Keller. Garrett Smithley’s 10th-place run gave the three-car organization two cars in the top 10 for just the second time this year.
“Look at these guys’ faces,” Chastain told NASCAR.com on pit road when examining the scene around his team. “That’s what means the world to me. Our little team out of Gaffney (South Carolina) — up here running with these guys — and a lot of circumstances to get us here but when the time came we were able to run with them.”
That time came with a caution on Lap 219 involving then race-leader Christopher Bell just as green flag stops had begun, throwing the running order into disarray with those that had previously pitted under green trapped a lap down. Chastain had last pitted after the completion of Stage 2 and elected to stay out under caution.
One more caution set up the race’s final restart with 10 laps to go with Chastain in sixth. From there he was able to climb up into the top five.
“Those final restarts you never know what to do until you’re there,” Chastain said. “I had my teammate (Smithley) lined up behind me so I knew we wouldn’t get put three wide going into Turn 1. From there, we just singled out and had to run around the top and we worked on the 28 (Dakoda Armstrong) car, which was big for me to beat him. Definitely want to beat that car and it was good to pass him there with a couple laps to go.”
The night didn’t start off as promising for Chastain. After qualifying 14th, the 24-year-old reflected he had probably led his team down the wrong path at the outset.
“My crew chief (Evan Snider) just asked me, ‘Lap 20 did you think we’d finish fourth?’ ” Chastain said. “And I said no and he didn’t either. We didn’t give up on it. We swung at this thing all night and just a testament to JD Motorsports and Johnny Davis.”
The 2017 campaign has also seen Chastain make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut. In May at Dover International Speedway, Chastain came away with a 20th-place finish in the No. 15 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports — the organization’s best finish on a non-restrictor plate event. More Monster Energy Series starts could happen this season.
“Nothing set in stone yet,” Chastain said. “I definitely think we are going to do a handful more this year. Working it all out now. Just trying to make the right choices. I don’t need to rush into it. We’ve got a great deal going here with this 4 car, although the Cup car helps me in this thing.
“On the track, it’s hard to balance everything. So trying to make sure we do that the right way and I think we’re going to get there — half dozen more starts this year to help get me acclimated to the Cup cars a little more.”