Ross Chastain pounded his way into the final lap of overtime at the Circuit of the Americas to earn his first career Cup win and lead the Trackhouse Racing team to celebrate for the first time in NASCAR.
Trackhouse is owned by former NASCAR driver Justin Marks and rapper Pitbull and is in its second season of racing. Marks kept Chastain on the team when he fully acquired him from Chip Ganassi before the season.
Chastain, an eighth-generation watermelon grower from Florida, celebrated by slamming a huge watermelon on top of his Chevrolet.
“It never tasted sweeter, I assure you,” said the 29-year-old driver with a piece of shell in his beard. He then he took a huge bite.
The two-lap sprint was the most aggressive action of a long Sunday of racing on the permanent circuit, used mainly for Formula 1. The race had nine warning flags and lasted 3 hours 20 minutes.
Chastain wasn’t even the leader. Tyler Reddick had moved into the lead on the previous lap between the eighth and ninth caution flags, and Chastain also had to race against his former teammate and teacher AJ Allmendinger.
Chastain and Allmendinger restarted second and third, while Alex Bowman was fourth. He was reprimanded for falling just short of the win and for a moment it looked as if he would fall behind again on his lap.
Chastain used an aggressive move to get ahead of Reddick and Allmendinger followed. Bowman also passed Reddick and closed the gap on Chastain and Allmendinger as the two buddies bumped into each other and pushed for the lead.
The lead changed hands four times in overtime. Chastain and Allmendinger traded him a couple of times and Bowman got to the front, but Chastain decided the race by diving down the inside to pass Allmendinger.
Allmendinger staged a spin, hit Bowman and dropped from second to 33rd place. The driver had won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. AP