Justin Marks on Ross Chastain: ‘He’s going to be a NASCAR champion’


MADISON, Ill. — On Ross Chastain’s worst day of the season, car owner Justin Marks looked ahead to what could be Chastain’s best day.

Marks defended his 29-year-old driver after incidents with Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway and noted that Chastain — who has two wins this season — is on a path to greatness.

“This is a very, very competitive sport and you fight for every single inch,” Marks told NBC Sports. “The thing is that he’s a newcomer in the top five and the established top-five guys don’t like there’s a newcomer there. I’m super, super proud of him. 

“He’s very aggressive. That’s what is required in winning races and ultimately it’s going to get him to where he’s going to be a NASCAR champion — his aggression matched with his talent.”

Sunday was Chastain’s 130th Cup start. If he wins the championship this year, it would come in his 151st series start. Only four drivers since 2000 won a Cup title by their 155th career series start:

  • Brad Keselowski won the 2012 title in his 125th Cup start.
  • Tony Stewart won the 2002 title in his 140th Cup start.
  • Matt Kenseth claimed the 2003 title in his 147th Cup start.
  • Kurt Busch scored the 2004 crown in his 150th Cup start.

A key difference between those drivers and Chastain, though, is that each of those four were with elite Cup teams either from the beginning or early on in their Cup career. The first 79 of Chastain’s 130 Cup starts were primarily with teams that were underfunded. He’s truly had only about 50 starts with a good organization and this year is his first to run at the front. 

Chastain’s nine top-10 finishes this season for Trackhouse Racing are tied for second in the series with Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and Elliott. Only Kyle Busch has more top 10s this year at 11.

“I would say the Trackhouse guys have been fast about everywhere,” said Busch, who finished second this past weekend to Joey Logano. 

For those who question if Chastain should be considered a title threat, let alone a favorite, AJ Allmendinger saw a championship-level driver when he raced Chastain for the win at Circuit of the Americas. 

“When I tried to chase him down at COTA, I thought, ‘Man, I might be trying to chase down a champion,’ Allmendinger told Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast in April. “That’s how strong he is. … I wouldn’t call him a dark horse anymore.”


After Joey Logano’s second victory in the last four points races, crew chief Paul Wolfe still doesn’t know how good his team is after 15 races with the Next Gen car.

“It’s just how up and down it is right now with the learning curve and going to new race tracks and trying to understand the car,” Wolfe said after Logano defeated Kyle Busch in a dramatic overtime Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway.

An example of the topsy-turvy season Logano has had came last month when Logano finished four laps behind the leaders in 29th at Dover. Wolfe called that “probably our worst race of the year to date.”

Six days later, Logano led a race-high 107 laps and won from the pole at Darlington Raceway. 

“It’s a roller coaster ride, that’s for sure,” Logano said Sunday of this season.

NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway
Joey Logano has scored victories at Darlington Raceway and World Wide Technology Raceway since early May. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano has not had more than two consecutive top-10 finishes this season. He twice has had back-to-back results of 17th or worse.

“I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve seen here is that fast cars, yes, win races, and it’s nice to have a fast car, but it seems like there are so many different things going on,” Logano said. 

“If you can just get yourself to the front, you have a chance no matter how fast your car is or not fast your car is. You have a chance if you are in the front.

“You just have to figure out a way to get there. It’s different for each track and how do you that. I don’t think anyone has it figured out yet.”

Wolfe said limited practice at most tracks adds to the challenge of understanding the car’s nuances. 

“It was nice this weekend to get 50 minutes,” Wolfe said, noting the expanded practice since this was an inaugural race for Cup at the 1.25-mile speedway. “It’s not a lot, but it gives us the opportunity to try a few things and try to build our notebook as we move forward.”


Camping World Truck Series driver Zane Smith was all smiles after finishing 17th in his Cup debut Sunday with RFK Racing. Smith filled in for Chris Buescher, who was out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith, who turns 23 years old Thursday, said racing at the Cup level was different.

“Just crazy how hard everyone races from front to last,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m really happy with today, how everything went. At the beginning of the day, I was hoping for a top 25 and hopefully completing all the laps. It was super hard to pass. … we ended up 17th I want to say and beat my boss (Brad Keselowski, who was 20th).

“That was just an awesome day. Unbelievable really. I still can’t believe I got to race a Cup race with the little experience I have really.”

Crew chief Scott Graves liked what he saw from Smith during the weekend.

“He improved a ton,” Graves said. “Just really impressed with his racing. He was really patient and figured out how to pass people and worked on setting them up and getting the pass where he needed to. Did a great job for us.”

Graves said Buescher is expected to be back with the team this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

“I know he felt a lot better (Saturday),” Graves said. “Just tired but felt a lot better.”

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


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.