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Ross Chastain takes family motto to title race: Just Do It

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — That Ross Chastain even has a chance to be a Cup champion Sunday at Phoenix Raceway is, perhaps, more remarkable than if he wins the title.

He wasn’t born into racing royalty as Chase Elliott. He wasn’t viewed as a generational talent as Joey Logano. He wasn’t groomed by a manufacturer as Christopher Bell.

Instead, Chastain relied on lessons from his family of watermelon farmers to climb from underfunded rides to the top of NASCAR’s premier series.

When Chastain shifted into fifth gear, drove his car into the wall and rocketed around Martinsville Speedway’s final two corners last weekend in a desperate bid to make the title race, he was merely following the edict of farm life. And the name of his family’s watermelon operation in Florida: JDI Farms. The JDI stands for Just Do It.

“The thing is, you just do it no matter what the job is,” Ross Chastain’s brother, Chad, told NBC Sports about the family’s motto and business name. “You just do it.

“One of our big things here in Florida is we’ll get these pop-up showers and it will dump two or three inches of rain on you an hour. You have to get that off (the fields) right away. So you don’t have time to freak out or panic and worry about it. You just have to go and do your job and get the water pumped out of the field, so you don’t lose your crop.

“I think growing up, doing that, being up with our dad at midnight when it’s pouring and we’re running around on tractors and we’re calling each other on the phone … it’s something that definitely prepared us for the pressure of racing and life in general.”

There was no grand plan for Ross Chastain’s racing career. After success in the short track ranks, Chastain looked to move up to NASCAR. A deal was put together for him to run a Truck race in 2011 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

“That was it,” he said of the one-race effort. “That was the plan.”

Chastain finished 10th. It led to a few more rides that season and a full-time effort in 2012 in that series. He moved to Brad Keselowski Racing’s team in the Truck series in 2013 and ran 14 of 22 races. The following season proved more challenging. Chastain ran only three Truck races and seven Xfinity races. 

But it was his performance in the Truck season finale that caught the attention of Xfinity Series owner Johnny Davis. Chastain started third and finished 11th. 

Davis was looking for a driver for the 2015 Xfinity season, but there was a catch. The ride would be a start-and-park effort, meaning Chastain would not get to run many laps before pulling the car into the garage because of lack of funding.

Davis let Chastain to race in the 2015 season opener at Daytona since speedway racing provides more teams a chance for a good result. Chastain finished ninth. 

“We had a legitimate shot to win the race,” Davis told NBC Sports. “I said, I can’t start-and-park the kid like this. This kid’s got talent. We need to help him showcase it.”

Chastain did not start-and-park any race that season. Daytona was the first of 142 races over five seasons with Davis. Chastain scored 13 top-10 finishes in that span. It’s not an impressive record but the team was more of a mid-pack operation and the focus was on not wrecking cars. Still, Chastain showed skill. He also showed a level of determination. 

What he didn’t show at a key moment was confidence.

In 2017, a sponsor came to Davis with some extra money for a race and he decided to channel it into a Cup ride for Chastain with team owner Jay Robinson. The catch was the race was at Dover, not the easiest track for drivers, let alone someone without Cup experience.

“I went to Ross and said this is what we’re going to do,” David said.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to get in a Cup car,” Chastain told him.

“Boy, you’ve been ready to get into a Cup car,” Davis said. “I’m not asking. I’m forcing you.”

Chastain recalls that moment vividly.

“I just never thought I was ready for Cup,” he said. “I’m glad that they were stern with it. Because if they would have given me my choice, I wouldn’t have done it. Wouldn’t have gone to Dover for my first Cup race. No way.”

Why?

“It’s scary,” Chastain said. “It is. It’s Cup racing. It’s hard. You see the guys that do it. Put them on the highest pedestal that I have.

“I just (didn’t) view myself as ready for that. That’s me. I don’t really know how to answer your question other than that was my thoughts and I still don’t believe that I was ready until I actually got in the race. Practice and qualifying, I wasn’t ready. I got in the race, it all clicked.”

Chastain finished 20th. 

His journey was just getting underway.

In 2019, Chastain completed a weekend trip that included a Greyhound bus in his commute from one track to another. 

He drove his camper from Pocono to Watkins Glen for the next Xfinity race. But he had a midweek Truck race at Eldora Speedway. He decided against flying because of cost of a commercial plane ticket and took a Greyhound bus from upper New York to Columbus, Ohio. 

His father picked him up at the bus station. After the Truck race, they piled into a van and drove back while Chastain slept. The van had a flat a few miles from Watkins Glen, but Chastain made it to the track on time.

Chastain’s break came in 2018 when he got to run three races for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity team. Chastain won at Las Vegas in his second start with the team.

He was set with a full-time ride for Ganassi’s Xfinity team in 2019, but that changed a few days before Christmas. The FBI raided DC Solar’s headquarters and the CEO’s home. The company was to have sponsored Chastain in 2019. 

Without a sponsor, Ganassi shut the team down on Jan. 4, 2019. Chastain was suddenly without a ride.

“From the night I found out the raid happened, which was a day and a half later to Jan. 2, in my head I was done racing in NASCAR,” Chastain said. “Jan. 2, I decided to try it again.”

What did he mean he was done with racing?

“In my head, once that (ride) was gone, I just never thought I’d have another opportunity like that and I wasn’t mentally ready to go back and run scuffed tires (for underfunded teams),” he said. “Ultimately, I decided to go back and run scuffed tires.”

It led back to Ganassi but to the organization’s Cup team in 2021. When Justin Marks bought Ganassi’s Cup operation that season, he kept Chastain. 

In their first year together, Chastain and Trackhouse will vie for a Cup title Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).

“This is wild,” Chastain said.

Just like his ride to this moment.

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

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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.

Ross Chastain gains attention worldwide with Martinsville move

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PHOENIX — Saluted by Formula One drivers, IndyCar competitors, NASCAR drivers and fans for his video game move last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Ross Chastain is still trying grasp all the attention.

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media. 

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver on the final lap of last weekend’s Martinsville race has had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that has had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account this year was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

“It’s wild just to try to comprehend how far this has really went,” Chastain said Thursday at NASCAR’s championship media day at the Phoenix Convention Center. “Just people that I know that are overseas in Asia or in Mexico, people that normally don’t talk about NASCAR, are talking about it, and they’re going to watch this weekend.”

Chastain said he’s received more than 1,000 text messages since that move last week secured the final transfer spot to Sunday’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). He’ll compete against Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Christopher Bell for the title. 

Chastain said he’s tried to answer all his texts but has failed.

“I haven’t caught up,” he said. “I never buy the internet on planes, but I bought the internet on the ride out and I texted the entire time. I got through like 400. So the rest are going to have to wait until next week.”

Team owner Justin Marks sad Chastain’s stunning move at Martinsville has made a big impact in the shop.

“There is not a person in this building right now that wouldn’t do anything Ross Chastain asked them to do,” Marks said. “Everybody is so fired up that that kid made that kind of commitment, made that kind of move and carried the company on his shoulders in that moment to get us in. It’s incredibly empowering.”

Chastain had never seen the video game move until his brother Chad pulled it off in a video game to beat him more than 15 years ago.

“He was more just shocked,” Chad Chastain told NBC Sports of his brother’s reaction that day. “Just dropped the controller and you don’t even know what to do.”

The reaction was similar at Martinsville by competitors and fans — just without dropping a controller — by the real-life move by Chastain to run his car along the wall the last quarter mile with the accelerator mashed. He passed five cars to earn a spot in this weekend’s championship race. 

Data from Chastain’s car showed that he was going more than 50 mph than a normal lap through Turns 3 and 4. It looked as if Chastain’s car was going at a cartoonish speed compared to the rest of the field.

Chastain reiterated Thursday he had not practiced that move on a simulator. His brother wasn’t convinced when they talked.

“When I answered (the phone), he said, ‘You practiced (the move) in the sim?” Chastain said of his brother. “No. Why does not anybody believe me? No I did not. He’s like, ‘I don’t believe it. You had to, You did it exactly how you needed to.’”

Long: Ross Chastain’s frenzied finish divides competitors

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ross Chastain was trying to comprehend what he had done nearly an hour after his video game move upended the Cup playoffs and thrilled a sold-out Martinsville Speedway while also leaving some drivers uneasy about such a maneuver and NASCAR officials pondering a possible rule change to make sure it never happens again.

“It’s sinking in the we did something that no one else has ever done,” Chastain said of his last-lap, rim-riding run. 

But what to call the wall-hugging move was too difficult a question for him to answer.

“I’ll check the Internet,” he said.

It was easier, instead, for him to answer how he drove his car into the wall as fast as he could.

“It was fight or flight,” Chastain explained. 

Chastain was two points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot to next week’s championship race on the last lap. Chastain was too far behind to gain those two positions so he put his car into fifth gear on the backstretch, planted his Chevrolet against the wall, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his vehicle around the final quarter mile while he floored the throttle.

“My brain could not comprehend, my bandwidth was shot when I entered (Turn) 3 and I grabbed fifth gear,” Chastain said. “Everything went blurry. I couldn’t comprehend it.”

It’s understandable why. Data from Chastain’s car reveals that its peak speed through Turns 3 and 4 on the last lap was 50 mph faster than a normal lap.

Cole Custer, who was trailing Chastain, told NBC Sports that he originally thought the No. 1 Chevrolet lost its brakes until he realized what Chastain was doing.

“That was crazy,” Custer said. “He’s got some balls. That was cool.”

Chastain’s car appeared to be going at a cartoonish rate of speed compared to the rest of the field.  

He passed five cars between Turn 3 and the finish line to gain enough points to beat Hamlin for a chance to race Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Martinsville winner Christopher Bell for the championship Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

“How did that work?” Chastain later said of his move.

However it did, it made for the fastest lap a stock car has ever run at Martinsville Speedway, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The track record was 18.954 seconds. Chastain’s final lap was 18.845 seconds.

Chastain said he had never tried anything like that in a car before. He said he first saw such a move more than 15 years ago in a video game. 

“My brother Chad beat me doing it,” Chastain said. 

“It flashed back in my head on the white flag (lap). … If it wrecks, OK, we don’t make it. It might not work, but I’ll try it.”

Not everyone was enamored by the move. 

Kyle Larson, who tried a similar wall-riding move at Darlington last year, frowned upon Chastain’s actions Sunday.

“It’s just a bad look,” Larson said. “I’m embarrassed that I did it at Darlington. 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 went on to say: “If you think (Chastain’s move is fair), why would you think that’s fair?”

Logano enjoyed Chastain’s move but also suggested that the sport should not see such a daring ploy again, citing safety concerns.

“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right?” Logano said. “Now every Xfinity race, every Truck race, every Cup race, no matter the track, this wall riding is going to be a play. That’s not good. That’s not good.

“I mean, it was awesome, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There’s no rule against it. There needs to be a rule against this one because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall coming to the checkered flag.”

Logano suggested that a rule needed to be in place before this weekend’s championship races in Truck, Xfinity and Cup. 

A NASCAR spokesperson stated Sunday night that Chastain’s move “was within the bounds of the rule book and (officials) will discuss any driver concerns this week.”

Hamlin, eliminated by Chastain’s charge, admitted his team’s struggles in the pits played a factor in not making it to the title race. Still, to lose on such a move by a competitor. 

“It’s funny,” Hamlin said, “but not for me. … We lost on a move that’s fair game.”

Chase Briscoe admitted that “I think all of us have thought about” doing what Chastain did but don’t.

Briscoe was the first car Chastain passed. Then Bubba Wallace, Logano, William Byron and Hamlin just before the finish line. 

“I wish that I would have done it now,” Briscoe said of Chastain’s move. “It’s like a 50-50 deal. Any of us could’ve done it, but is it fair to the (five) guys he passed? Probably not. But all (five) of us could have done the same thing.”

Instead, it was Chastain who did it.

But after watching a video of his daring move?

“I can’t believe it’s me in there,” he said.

Should NASCAR call cautions before it rains to avoid potential incidents?

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With some drivers suggesting so, is it time for NASCAR officials to call cautions before it rains at oval tracks?

Daniel Suarez said that NASCAR should have thrown a caution for rain before at least 15 cars crashed in Turn 1 because of a wet track at Daytona International Speedway. Denny Hamlin cited the need for “better officiating” after being involved in that accident.

Sunday’s race marked the third time since October 2020 that rain contributed to an incident on an oval while a Cup race was under green flag conditions. 

In October 2020, Kevin Harvick hit the wall while leading at Texas in the mist. Hamlin’s car lost traction and went up the track without hitting the wall the lap before Harvick’s incident. Cole Custer slid up the track and nearly hit the wall a few laps after Harvick’s accident. The race continued for a few more laps before rain stopped the event.

In July 2021, Kyle Busch, who was leading, and Martin Truex Jr., who was second, both slid in Turn 1 in the rain at New Hampshire on the sixth lap. Hamlin’s car also spun. Busch told NBC Sports after the incident that the race started in a mist and “never should have went green to begin with.” 

Sunday at Daytona, storm clouds could be seen near the track and radar showed rain nearby. 

“We knew the rain was coming,” Suarez said. “It was raining next door. It’s just a matter of time. Why wait for it? I don’t know.”

Hamlin said: “We’ll learn from this, I’m sure.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told NBC Sports: “We were on top of the weather, monitoring with all of our turn spotters, in touch with the spotters up top, the pace car. We had all the information that we thought. We had been dodging a little bit of weather, obviously, for a little while. Nothing had hit. All of a sudden there was that shower.

“The pace car, sitting down there on the inside, it was still dry when they wrecked. If you watch the in-car (camera), you can see that some rain definitely started right before they wrecked. We really couldn’t do anything about that, and it was not something that you can predict when it is going to start raining.

“Just a super-bad situation for everybody.”

That three such incidents happened within two years raises questions about how lenient NASCAR should be to allow racing in any wet conditions, especially with how NASCAR has reacted to rain at road courses. 

Series officials were criticized by drivers last year at Circuit of the Americas when rain and the spray from the cars blinded drivers and created multiple accidents. Harvick called it “the most unsafe thing I’ve ever done in a race car by a lot.”

At Watkins Glen earlier this month, cars were on track preparing to start the race despite puddles. While some drivers said they were for starting the race, officials sent the cars back to pit road to allow for more work on the wet track. Engines were re-fired about 25 minutes after cars were brought to pit road.

“Had we gone green while it was raining, probably would have been difficult like it was at COTA,” said Watkins Glen winner Kyle Larson. “It was nice they brought us down pit road and kind of waited for the rain to stop and blew that layer of thick wetness off the track.”

Lesson learned from COTA. Is there a lesson to be learned after Texas, New Hampshire and Daytona? That rain impacted races on a 1.5-mile, 1-mile and a 2.5-mile speedway shows the need for vigilance at every style track. 

It would be no fun for fans to see a race under caution if there had yet to be any rain on the track or merely raindrops, but NASCAR’s No. 1 responsibility is to the safety of the drivers.

Every driver in the incident caused by the rain at Daytona was cleared from the infield care center, but that didn’t mean the impacts were light. 

Already this season, drivers have talked about how they are feeling the impacts more the new car even as data shows the hits aren’t any harder than with last year’s car. That suggests drivers are feeling more of the hits and that can cause injuries. Kurt Busch will miss his seventh consecutive Cup race this weekend at Darlington because of concussion-like symptoms suffered in a July 23 accident at Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin said his impact in Sunday’s crash hurt.

“My whole body, literally my jaw hurts,” Hamlin said. “I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers who gets his whole face demolished. That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us (about the impacts), all the other drivers, it’s true.”

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Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks tweeted that Sunday’s race “cost teams collectively about $4 (million).”

It’s easy to see how a few seconds or decisions changed the financial status for some teams by potentially millions.

Had NASCAR called the caution for rain before the field entered Turn 1, then maybe the top 15 cars don’t crash. If so, Austin Dillon doesn’t go from 16th to the lead. 

Dillon went on to win and earn a spot in the playoffs, guaranteeing that he’ll finish no worse than 16th in the points. 

With the charter system, teams earn money based on multiple categories: Entering a race, historical performance over the past three seasons, the traditional points fund and race results.

Dillon’s win means he’ll make the playoffs for the second time in three years. His team will be entitled to more money in upcoming years the further he goes in this year’s playoffs. 

“It can be, for sure, a $1 million day,” car owner Richard Childress said after Dillon’s win.

Just as Richard Childress Racing celebrated a win and a financial boost, Martin Truex Jr.’s Joe Gibbs Racing team will feel the pain of missing the playoffs for the next three seasons.

Truex had finished second, seventh and second in points the past three years, making the historical payments to the No. 19 team among the best in the sport, raising the value of the team’s charter. 

With 14 cars eliminated by the accident caused by the rain, that allowed Ryan Blaney to move ahead of those cars despite being laps down after his car was damaged in an earlier incident. Truex also had damage from a separate incident. Truex started the final stage 10 points behind Blaney for what would be the final playoff spot. 

With so few cars on track, it made it harder for Truex to be 11 positions ahead of Blaney to earn the playoff spot. He fell three points short and now cannot finishes better than 17th in the points. That will impact the historical payment to the team starting next season. 

It comes in a season where Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to announce a sponsor for the No. 18 car for next year. Mars Inc., which reportedly pays $20 million or more to fund the car, is not returning after this season. That leaves Kyle Busch’s future with the team in doubt.

Had NASCAR decided to call the race after that accident, instead of waiting 3 hours, 19 minutes to resume the event, Truex would have been in the playoffs and Blaney out. Truex was fourth at the time, while Blaney was 18th. 

By running the final 21 laps, Blaney — despite being six laps down — passed those cars that could not continue and finished 15th, while Truex fell to eighth with his damaged car.