DOVER, Del. — Ross Chastain gave it everything his car could handle during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff elimination race at Dover International Speedway, but came up just short of advancing to the Round of 8.
It was a battle between Chastain, Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft as Cindric gained seven points in the first two stages to bridge the deficit he had coming into the race, finishing eighth to secure his spot in the next round of the postseason. This left Chastain and Tifft to battle in the waning laps, with Tifft eventually edging Chastain by three points for the final spot in the Round of 8.
But from getting the opportunity to compete (and win) in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 car, to the strides he and the No. 4 team made together throughout the year, Chastain exuded optimism through the disappointment of missing the cut.
“It’s still so cool,” Chastain said. “I did not expect this starting off the year. I felt like 13th was our spot and I guess at the end of the regular season we were 11th straight up on the 4 car on points. It’s something I’ll never forget. All of this.”
Both teams put up a fight in the final turns; with 15 laps left, Chastain had caught up to Tifft in points putting him in position to win the tiebreaker. But Tifft picked off the positions he needed to in the closing laps to gain a three-point edge on Chastain when the checkered flag fell. Chastain went on to finish 13th, while Tifft earned a 15th-place result.
Chastain’s No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet showed strength throughout the day, but a speeding penalty exiting pit road during the final round of stops forced him to claw his way back through the field. It was one mistake of a handful that Chastain believed took him out of contention.
“Just too many mistakes on my part,” Chastain said. “I sped there on pit road and it probably cost us. Didn’t think I was close, but I was, obviously, I was over (pit road speed). We did our jobs and we came here and did what we needed to do to make it.
“The guys out of Gaffney (South Carolina) did everything they could to bring the best race car and we ran considerably better than we normally would have,” he added. “A lot to be proud about and a lot to build on the rest of the year and the future.”
Although his hunt for the championship may have ended, Chastain is excited move forward with the rest of the season and work on making his craft better for next year.
“I have so much more to learn,” Chastain said. “There’s so much more to learn inside this race car. A lot of these guys feel like they’re the best thing ever, and we’re not. …There’s a lot more we could be doing with these cars, with me personally, so I’m just going to try to keep working at that, come back better after Talladega and then next year, too.”