By Tyler Head
June 4, 2017
DOVER, Del.—We’ve all heard the saying “to the winner goes the spoils,” but Sunday’s race at the Monster Mile proved that’s not always the case.
When Ross Chastain climbed out of the No. 15 Delaware Highway Safety Chevrolet, you could have mistaken him for the winner of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Several drivers and crew members from other teams made their way over to the 24-year-old to congratulate him.
“You did really good today with that ol’ racecar,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said as he shook Chastain’s hand.
Chastain was not the winner, nor was he among the top 10. In an ordinary set of circumstances, his 20th place finish wouldn’t be anything to write about, but the details around Chastain’s run Sunday make it extraordinary.
Before Sunday, Chastain had never competed in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. He’s a regular in the XFINITY Series, but drives for a relatively small team owned by Gary Keller and has five top-10 finishes in 84 career starts in that division.
That brings us to the team Chastain was driving for in Sunday’s Cup race: Premium Motorsports. The team is about as small as they come, working with much less manpower, and cash, than the grand majority of the garage.
“When they first told me about this deal, I hesitated a little bit,” Chastain said after the race.
He had good reason to hesitate; the team that was calling him had averaged just a 28th place finish through the first 12 races of the season (31st on non-restrictor plate tracks), and there was a good chance budgetary constraints could hurt the effort to compete.
That didn’t end up being an issue during the race, though. Throughout much of the race Chastain remained on the lead lap and, despite the high cost of a set of tires, the crew repeatedly put fresh rubber on the No. 15 to pursue the best finish possible.
“Thanks to Jay (Robinson, team co-owner) for buying me all of these sticker tires. I know it wasn’t in the budget,” Chastain said. “He went above and beyond to give me and Mark (Hillman) the tools we needed to go and run with these guys and it paid off.”
Entering the race, Chastain said there were no expectations of him and his only goal was to finish the race. Despite at times putting himself in “some really bad situations,” Chastain avoided trouble when others did not and accomplished that goal, and then some.
“Yeah there was a bunch of attrition, but the car’s clean and I got to race with a bunch of cool guys like Dale there,” an elated Chastain said after the race.
The 20th place finish was the best for the No. 15 since the Daytona 500, when Michael Waltrip drove to an eighth place finish in his final start.
Chastain said there are no plans for additional Cup races as of Sunday, but did say he planned to “drink a beer” to celebrate a successful debut in the sport’s top series.
Tyler Head/The Racing Experts
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