Ross Chastain’s pivotal move earns Kurt Busch’s praise and Kyle Busch’s ire


HAMPTON, Georgia – Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway turned into a tense battle between Kurt and Kyle Busch, but it was Ross Chastain who ultimately decided the sibling rivalry.

Responding to an ask by Kurt’s team to give his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate the bottom line, Chastain positioned his No. 42 Chevrolet in the high lane to impede leader Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota on Lap 236 of 260.

Kurt Busch scooted past into first and led the final 25 laps for his victory of the season, clinching a spot in the playoffs.

Kyle Busch was miffed afterward and referred to Chastain as “a POS” in saying the move “shows you what kind of driver he is.”

“No question, man,” Busch responded when asked if Chastain intentionally blocked him to help his older brother win. “He turned right in order to get dead right in front of me.

“For a whole two laps, I just killed the tires trying to get turned underneath him. You can’t just change direction, and when I tried to change direction, he watched his mirror and changed direction with me. So he just stomped on the brake and air blocked. It’s pathetic.”

But was it ethical?

“It’s racing, man,” said Kyle Busch, who missed a weekend sweep and also getting a coveted piece of asphalt on the last weekend of racing on a surface whose demise he angrily lamented after an Xfinity victory Saturday. “You can do whatever the hell you want, it’s just going to come back on you.”

Chastain, who also was battling to stay on the lead lap, gave little credence to whether payback awaited.

“He can say what he wants,” Chastain said. “I don’t really care. I mean, yeah, he lost the race, he’s going to be mad. I’m mad, I finished (21st) a lap down with a teammate winning. That’s not what I want, either. He wanted to win, I wanted to run better.

“Do I care that Kyle Busch just lost a race and got out of the car and when the microphone went to his face, he said he owes me one? No, that’s heat of the moment. We’re really hot in there, and if he’s going to spout off and we need to talk about it, we can talk about it. Probably with Kurt being the mediator.”

While acknowledging Chastain “is going to get a little flak” for “coming off the top rope,” Kurt Busch heartily and publicly endorsed his teammate’s maneuver (including a “shake and bake” reference from “Talladega Nights”) and said “no line was crossed” in securing his 33rd career victory (and evening the 1-2 Cup finishes between the Busch brothers at two victories apiece).

Crew chief Matt McCall, whose team relayed Kurt Busch’s request for assistance from the No. 42 through Ganassi pit box communications and spotters, said the help from Chastain essentially won the race for his No. 1 Chevrolet.

Our car was really good on the bottom, and we radioed to our spotter to tell (Chastain), ‘Hey, give us the bottom quicker than you think,’ ” Kurt Busch said. “When we asked for that, as fast as we did, Kyle’s car was good up top, so it worked in our favor both ways.

“What happened on track was the perfect scenario for a teammate to do the work that he needed to do. Ross did that in a way that gave me a sense of pride on the education and the mentorship that I have helped Ross with this year. It was a perfect give-back. Can we do that in the playoffs? No. Can you do that in a regular season where one guy has won and one guy is trying to run hard? Today was a perfect scenario for that to unfold, and Kyle will get over it pretty quick.”

After exchanging a high five with Busch in victory lane, Chastain said he was happy to help his teammate in return for the first and only year together as teammates. Busch, 42, has played a big brother role of sorts to Chastain, 28, doling out advice on how to carry himself during his first full-time season as a fully funded Cup driver.

Kurt Busch even made an offseason trip to Chastain’s family watermelon farm in Florida.

“He’s incredible,” Chastain said. “I really can’t even describe it because he’s not just a pat on the back guy. I’ve had those before that will pat you on the back but then not say anything when they see something’s wrong. And he’s literally called me, pulled me aside in the shop, pulled me aside at the track and been like ‘You are doing this wrong. This is not how you talk to people. This is not how you approach this person. It’s not how you race this person.’

“He’s been in it for 20 something years. And he’s literally, like, grabbed me and been like, ‘Listen to me. I promise you this will be better if you do it this way.’ I like that. It’s not easy in the moment, but it’s a lot easy after the fact that I actually learned something.”

There also is a little more at stake for Chastain, who is battling for a full-time ride and facing an uncertain future with the sale of Ganassi.

“Everybody’s got their own code,” he said. “We have a huge banner that hangs in CGR, ‘One team, One goal,’ and that’s to win. Kurt asked for the bottom. He’s my teammate. I’m going to give it to him.

“I’m doing everything I can to stay in the sport and driving as hard as I can and stay on the lead lap as long as we can is a part of that. … If anybody has a problem with it, they can come talk to me, and nobody came up to me afterward. I mean, my goodness gracious, his brother won the race.”

Sunday Cup race at Sonoma Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


The Cup Series heads to wine country to compete on the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway. This race leads into the final off weekend of the season. After the break, the series races 20 consecutive weekends. NBC and USA will broadcast those races.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Adam Devine will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:50 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:45 p.m. … Driver intros are at 3 p.m. … Earl Smith, pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, will give the invocation at 3:30 p.m. … Tiffany Woys will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 110 laps (218.9 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 55.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and switches to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Daniel Suarez won his first career Cup race last year at Sonoma. Chris Buescher finished second. Michael McDowell placed third.


Friday 5: Kyle Busch, Randall Burnett forming potent combination

Rick Hendrick hopes rough driving settles down after Chase Elliott suspension

Concussion-like symptoms sideline Noah Gragson

NASCAR implements safety changes after Talladega crash

Dr. Diandra: Brad Keselowski driving RFK Racing revival 

NASCAR penalizes Erik Jones, Legacy MC for L1 violation

Drivers to watch at Sonoma Raceway 

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


Cup and Xfinity teams will be on track Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

Cup teams will practice and qualify for Sunday’s race. Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday on the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California.

Sonoma Raceway


Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 75 degrees. Forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a high of 71 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race.

Saturday, June 10

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 3 – 4 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Cup practice  (FS2)
  • 6 – 7 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS2)
  • 8 p.m. — Xfinity race (79 laps, 156.95 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)