Friday 5: Will someone try Ross Chastain video game move at Phoenix?


Driver code and integrity have been among the phrases drivers have spoken when they discussed Ross Chastain’s rim-riding charge on the final lap of last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

While the move has created a buzz on social media for NASCAR and added energy to a season that has seen 19 different winners and two first-timers in Sunday’s Cup championship race (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock), questions still persist about what Chastain did.

MORE: Ross Chastain gains worldwide attention with Martinsville move

With NASCAR electing not to outlaw the move, some drivers worry it could be attempted this weekend at Phoenix Raceway when Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series titles are at stake. 

Chase Elliott acknowledges the attention that Chastain’s move bought the sport but has concerns about it.

“I think from a global perspective of our sport, it is kind of embarrassing in some ways just from an integrity standpoint of what we do week-to-week,” Elliott said Thursday at NASCAR’s championship media day at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“From a standpoint of a guy doing what he needed to do to get the job done, yeah, I think can have respect for that for sure. But you’re not allowed to cut courses, road courses and things like that. 

“I just think from a global perspective, for the integrity of what we do, it’s not a great look, in my opinion.”

Kyle Larson spoke up against the move after last weekend’s race, calling what Chastain did “embarrassing.”

Larson acknowledged he tried a similar move in last year’s Southern 500 but Denny Hamlin was high enough on the track to keep Larson behind to win that race. 

“I’m embarrassed that I did it at Darlington,” Larson said. “Maybe if I didn’t do it last year, people wouldn’t even think to do that, so I’m embarrassed myself and glad that I didn’t win that way (at Darlington). It’s not just a good look. Not a good look. … It’s embarrassing.”

Larson suggested that driver code should be enough to prevent it but when asked if there is driver code any more, he said: “There should be.”

Joey Logano said last week that NASCAR needed a rule in place before this weekend’s races. Series officials said the rules have been the same for 35 points races in the matter, so they saw no need to change the rules for the championship event.

“It’s not the X Games,” Logano said. “This is NASCAR. It’s a different thing than that.

I mean, there’s a place for it. Like I said, it was cool, it was a neat move. We all talked about doing it before he actually did it. He had a good reason for doing it. He’s rewarded for being in the championship. That’s fine, all well and good.

The next time it happens it’s not as cool. … All of a sudden now a leader has to put himself in the fence to finish first. At that point it doesn’t look really right.”

Noah Gragson, competing for the Xfinity title Saturday, questions how NASCAR could even officiate the maneuver had they made a rule preventing it.

“How are you going to write a rule?” Gragson said. “You can’t hit the wall on the last lap to advance your position. … It’s too much of a judgment call in my opinion. I don’t think you’re going to see a ton of guys doing it in the future. Maybe once or twice in the future, but it’s not going to be every car on the last lap. It would be stupid in my opinion.

“It really worked because of the situation and scenario he was in. Obviously, that was not an everyday situation or scenario. I don’t think you’re going to see it a ton. … There’s not enough scenarios where people are going to tear up their (cars).”

2. All in

Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks admitted he was nervous before last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

He “so badly” wanted to be a part of the story this weekend at Phoenix. 

With Ross Chastain’s desperate charge, Marks and Trackhouse are in the title event. It marks the first time in the last three years that a team owned by someone other than Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs or Roger Penske is competing for the Cup crown. 

“I want this more than I’ve wanted anything professionally in my life ever, and I’ve taken massive personal risk to start this company,” Marks said of reaching the title race. “I believe in it more than I’ve believed in anything, more than I ever believed in my own ability behind the wheel. I believe in it more than any other business enterprise I’ve ever started.”

So how much of a risk did Marks take to start Trackhouse Racing two years ago?

“I have an opportunity, very successful family, and I have an opportunity to have a dream that I can chase,” he said.

“Just about everything that is available to me in my life because of those circumstances, I pushed into Trackhouse. This was it. This was all the chips in. If this didn’t work, to be honest with you, there wasn’t a ton to fall back on.

“So when I talk about risk, it’s the fact that when I look at my life and where I came from and how much I love this sport, how much I love racing and love these people that work here and love being at the racetrack, there’s just nothing else I wanted to do.”

Once he made the decision to start a Cup team, Marks admitted it was “scary … uncomfortable.

“Even last year when we were up at RCR, just not knowing if it was going to work. We didn’t own our charter. Camping World, Marcus Lemonis came on board two weeks into the season. We didn’t have much sponsorship. He provided us this opportunity. I didn’t know where I was going to get my charter from or how I was going to make this work.

Once we acquired Chip Ganassi Racing, I had no idea if General Motors was going to look at us and go those guys have earned an opportunity to be a key partner alongside Hendrick and alongside RCR, or if they were going to see it as an opportunity to save some money and just commit to those two teams.

“So going through that whole process was stress and fear. But I think it was all belief. I just believed that this was a moment for an enterprise like this to be successful. And then as things started happening, as we closed the Ganassi sale and then as we signed our agreement with Chevrolet and then Worldwide Express and Jockey came on and then we started winning, in that moment it was like, okay, I think it was the right decision.”

3. One final ride in the No. 18

Sunday marks the final Cup race for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, ending a 15-year tenure that saw Busch win two Cup titles with the organization. 

Busch joins Richard Childress Racing after this season to drive the No. 8 car.

Busch’s 56 Cup victories at JGR rank fifth all-time for most wins by a driver with a single team. Richard Petty holds the record, scoring 196 of his 200 wins at Petty Enterprises. He’s followed by Jeff Gordon (93 wins for Hendrick Motorsports), Jimmie Johnson (83 wins for Hendrick Motorsports) and Dale Earnhardt (67 wins for Richard Childress Racing).

Busch has expressed his disappointment with not continuing with JGR. The team was working on a contract extension this season when a potential sponsor pulled out, leaving JGR scrambling to secure a sponsor for the No. 18 car.

Without a sponsor in place, Busch and JGR could not come to an agreement.

“It’s going to be the end of something that was really special and great, really,” car owner Joe Gibbs said this week. “When you think about 15 years and everything that the race team and Kyle has been able to do, it’s just been — it’s been a fantastic time for us. … To end all that, obviously there’s a lot of emotion, and you wish that it could have kept going.

“We tried in every way for over a year to try and get things to work out. They just didn’t.”

Busch’s final season with JGR saw his title hopes end in the first round after two blown engines. David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said: “We cost Kyle Busch a shot at his third championship.”

Joe Gibbs Racing is set to announce Ty Gibbs as the new driver of the No. 18 Cup car for next year. That announcement will come at the end of this season.

4. Fire from within 

Saturday marks the fifth time in seven seasons that Justin Allgaier has reached the Xfinity Series championship race. He seeks his first series title.

Last year, Allgaier failed to reach the the title race. That’s motivated him this year.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of rolling into here at Phoenix, just that empty feeling,” said Allgaier, who fell six points short of making last year’s championship event. “It was a feeling that I never wanted to have again.”

Allgaier would have missed the title race for a second year in a row had Ty Gibbs not wrecked teammate Brandon Jones out of the lead on the final lap last week at Martinsville Speedway. Jones needed to win to advance. With him in the wall and out of title contention, Allgaier took the final transfer spot, giving JR Motorsports three drivers in contention for a championship: Allgaier, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry. They’ll race Gibbs for the crown Saturday (6 p.m. ET on USA Network).

“When I left here (last year), it put something in me, a fire, that I didn’t want to come back and not be in (the title race),” Allgaier said. “I think that was a big deal for me.

“This year has more meaningful experience. I’m definitely more excited to be here this year. I think you are able to understand the gravity of what we’re up against. I’ve got three competitors, I know how much they want it, and I think equally they know how much I want it. It’s going to be a barnburner of a race.” 

5. One last chance 

Sunday’s Cup season finale provides one last chance for drivers to continue streaks, end droughts or just close the season with a good result.

Six drivers who won a Cup race last year have yet to win this season. They are: Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell.

Drivers with consecutive winning streaks in jeopardy of ending this weekend: Keselowski (11 seasons in a row with a win), Truex (seven) and Blaney (five).

Kevin Harvick has had 18 consecutive top-10 finishes at Phoenix. That’s tied for the most top 10s in a row at any track. Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each had 18 consecutive top 10s at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Texas Truck race results: Carson Hocevar scores first series win

Texas Truck race results
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Carson Hocevar was in front after the leaders crashed in overtime and scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Texas Truck race results

Rookie Nick Sanchez, who led 168 of the 172-lap race, dueled reigning series champion Zane Smith on the last lap when Sanchez’s truck hit Smith’s. As Sanchez tried to regain control of his vehicle, he was hit from behind by Hocevar. That contact sent Sanchez into Smith. Christian Eckes also was collected.

Hocevar’s first win came in his 59th series start.

Chase Purdy placed second. Stewart Friesen finished third. Ty Majeski was fourth. Jake Garcia completed the top five.


Richmond Xfinity results, driver points


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith won a stage, led a race-high 83 laps and rallied late to score his first career Xfinity win Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

MORE: Richmond Xfinity results

MORE: Xfinity points after Richmond race

John Hunter Nemechek placed second. The rest of the top five featured Josh Berry, Kaz Grala and Cole Custer. Austin Hill, who had won three of the first six races of the season, placed ninth.

Hill continues to lead the points. He has a 12-point advantage on Riley Herbst and an 18-point lead on Nemechek heading into the next series race in two weeks at Martinsville.

Chandler Smith scores first career Xfinity win with Richmond victory


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith held off John Hunter Nemechek to win his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

The 20-year-old Smith took the lead with 12 laps to go and withstood a restart with six laps to go to earn the victory for Kaulig Racing.

MORE: Richmond race results, driver points

His victory came about a month after being passed for the lead with two laps to go at Las Vegas and finishing third day.

“It obviously wasn’t in God’s works for me that and I was fine with that, I was good with that,” said Smith, who will make his Cup debut Sunday. “I knew there was something bigger and better that He was playing it out for me and I just had to be faithful and keep on trucking. Here’s proof of it.”

Nemechek was second. Josh Berry placed third and was followed by Kaz Grala and Cole Custer.

Justin Allgaier finished 13th to win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

“Today was weird because of how we finished,” Allgaier said. “Given the same circumstances a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, 13th wasn’t going to win the Dash 4 Cash but today it did.”

Stage 1 winner: Chandler Smith

Stage 2 winner: Josh Berry

Who had a good race: A caution caught Justin Allgaier a lap down, ending his chances for a top-five finish but he was able to bounce back and win the Dash 4 Cash for a fifth time. … Derek Kraus finished 10th in his Xfinity debut. … Chris Hacker placed 14th in his Xfinity debut.

Who had a bad race: Riley Herbst had his career-long streak of top-10 finishes snapped after nine races. He placed 23rd after he was hit and spun late in the race.

Notable: This is the second time in the last four races that there has been a first-time series winner. Sammy Smith scored his first series win last month at Phoenix.

Next: The series is off until April 15 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain move on from COTA incident


RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez says he’s been trying to “work on myself” after conflicts with teammate Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman last weekend at COTA but noted that if NASCAR doesn’t make adjustments with restarts on road courses, he’ll change his driving style.

NASCAR fined Suarez $50,000 on Wednesday for hitting another vehicle on pit road after the race. Suarez hit Chastain’s car at pit entrance and hit the back of Bowman’s car while they were both on pit road.

MORE: Cup starting lineup at Richmond 

“I’ve been trying to work on myself mostly during the week, trying to clear my mind and reset,” Suarez said Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “My team, we’re good. I think the issue wasn’t really with one driver. I feel like it’s more as an industry, how we are allowing to have those kind of bump-and-run restarts at the end of the races at road courses.

“I don’t think that’s right.”

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to go by. Suarez finished 27th.

Chastain said he and Suarez have moved on from last week’s incident after talking this week.

“Every household on this earth has their moments of arguments and we had ours,” Chastain said Saturday.

“We’re family. We’re in the same house, right. It’s in our name. It’s Trackhouse. No matter what, we all think we have to put that behind and know that moving forward we’re brothers. … We’re brothers at Trackhouse and we’re going to be stronger together.”

Suarez is among the number of drivers who have raised concerns about the rough driving in the series. The Next Gen car is more durable and can take more hits — as evident in the Clash at the Coliseum to start the year when drivers barreled into the back of cars in the corners to slow down.

Add the emphasis of winning, less respect for one another and the result is the type of racing on display at the end of the race at Circuit of the Americas, as drivers charged down a long straightaway before braking hard for a tight turn and making contact with one another.

So, what can be done?

“I don’t have the answers to that,” Suarez said. “All I know is that NASCAR is working toward trying to make a better solution for some of these restarts. It doesn’t look right. This sport looks embarrassing.

“That’s not real. Just go into the corner and bump three cars to push people out of that way, that’s not real. We know that. That’s how some people got top fives and top 10s last week and some of the guys that were fast, like myself, finished 27th.

“If NASCAR does something about it, that’s amazing. If they don’t I’ll just join the party.”