LAS VEGAS — It all seemed perfect Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At the track Ross Chastain scored his first NASCAR victory four years ago, he was in position to win the Round of 8 playoff race and advance to next month’s championship event.
But as often happens in this desert city, dreams wilt.
Three laps from the finish, Joey Logano took advantage of fresher tires and slipped past Chastain, snatching that ticket to the title race. There was nothing Chastain could do but watch the checkered flag wave for Logano instead of himself.
“It’s a really, really, really good kind of hurt, but it still hurts,” Chastain said. “You want to win, but again, you run second in a playoff race and we competed all day long and we did almost everything right.”
It was something wrong that helped Logano get by Chastain and force Chastain to have to wait a week for his next chance to reach the championship race.
Logano led on Lap 196 when the field came to pit road under caution. He restarted eighth.
Logano again pitted under caution at Lap 229. He went from second to ninth.
Crew chief Paul Wolfe said an issue with the left rear tire led to Logano losing spots on both pit stops. That would prove critical to the finish.
“We had kind of like a bad hang and the wheel didn’t get on the dry pin on the initial hang and then it kind of put some material in the holes of the wheel,” Wolfe said. “Then it just makes it very hard for it to draw up tight. It eventually got tight, but then the wheel was wedged on there … so then we paid the penalty on the next stop, as well, getting it off.”
Losing that track position was significant because when the caution came out on Lap 247, Logano was ninth, while Chastain was third.
It didn’t make sense for Chastain to give up track position for tires, so he did not pit. Wolfe called Logano to pit road. Logano was the first car to pit. He restarted 12th.
“We gave up three spots for four new tires,” Wolfe said. “I thought that was a pretty good trade-off.”
Logano still had to navigate through traffic. He did.
Chastain took the lead on Lap 252 on the restart. A lap later, Logano was fourth.
Logano passed Chase Briscoe for second on Lap 258 and was about a second behind Chastain.
Two of the sport’s most aggressive drivers were set to battle for the win. Logano needed three laps to close the gap. Chastain repeatedly blocked Logano.
“He did a good job for the five or six laps that he did, where I kind of was trying to pull the old bait-and-switch because everybody mirror drives at this point, everyone is looking and moving around,” Logano said of Chastain.
“He did a good job of kind of entering low and then fading up, and then the wake is so bad. I thought I was going to have good enough tires to where I could cross the wake and get air back on the nose and get him. Ultimately I wasn’t able to do that.”
But for all that Chastain did, he couldn’t keep Logano behind much longer.
Logano made his move on Lap 263, going low in Turn 3 while Chastain went high.
“If I had just continued to air block him and just don’t worry about ripping a line that is best for my car, but I just committed to what was best for my car that lap and it was the top,” Chastain said. “He got just inside of my left rear and door. From there we both drove into (Turn) 1 so deep and I had the wheel cranked all the way left. We just didn’t have enough turn with our older tires.”
And it proved to be another lesson for Chastain.
“It hurts to lose,” Chastain said, “but now we go to Homestead (for the next race) and have some fun.”
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Ross Chastain’s runner-up finish a ‘really, really, really good kind of hurt’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com