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Ross Chastain plays spoiler to Cup championship contenders

AVONDALE, ARIZ. — Ross Chastain played spoiler to the NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders and won Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.

Chastain became the first non-champion to win the Cup Series finale since Denny Hamlin at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2013.

He led six times for 157 laps but didn’t take the lead until lap 117. Although Chris Buescher passed him for the race lead and stage two win on lap 170, Chastain took control again in stage three.

Victory still didn’t come easy for the Trackhouse Racing driver. After the final green-flag pit stop cycle, Ross Chastain nearly came to blows with eventual champion Ryan Blaney.

On lap 258, Blaney took the lead from Chastain but Chastain fought back. Chastain fought back for two laps until Blaney laid the bumper to him. Eventually, Chastain retook the lead while Blaney dropped back, appearing to burn up his tires, while Martin Truex Jr. took second.

“I tried to pick the pace up but he [Ross Chastain] backed me up to the 5,” Blaney said.

During the final caution with 36 to go, NASCAR officials reminded Chastain and other non-championship drivers to be courteous of the four championship drivers.

Chastain didn’t need to worry. He gave Blaney room and outlasted on an intense restart with 31 laps to go, gapping him by 1.23 seconds at the checkered flag.

Chastain led six times for 157 laps and went to victory lane for the second time in 2023 – matching his 2022 mark.

This is the first time since Kyle Larson in 2016-17 that a Championship Four did not lead the most laps in the championship race. In fact, a Championship Four driver did not lead the most laps in 2014 and 2015 – the first two title races.

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