On Sunday night in Nashville, 2023, Ross Chastain won for the first time.
Chastain took the lead for good after passing Martin Truex Jr. on lap 267 of the 300-lap race and held it to the checkered flag. Chastain’s first two Cup Series victories were at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega last season.
Sunday’s race was won by Chastain, who again started first and led the most laps. After taking the lead, he comfortably held off Truex, and with 20 laps to go, he used a brilliant three-wide maneuver in lapped traffic to make sure Truex wouldn’t get to within striking distance of his bumper.
Chastain would have made the playoffs even if he had gone winless this season. Therefore, the victory was unnecessary. Despite starting the race in fourth place, Chastain was just 24 points behind the leader, Truex. Based on points alone, Chastain was a lock for the playoffs.
After Chastain had already won, the most peculiar part of the race unfolded. While Daniel Suarez seemingly swerved straight up the track to congratulate Chastain on his triumph, Chase Briscoe collided with him.
Since the beginning of the 2022 season, Chastain’s aggressive racing has made him the most divisive driver in NASCAR, and he was in a rut until his victory. Chastain has placed 29th, 22nd, and 10th since his fifth-place finish in Kansas in May, the lone off week of the Cup Series season.
After the race, Chastain explained why kids everywhere attempt to “tear you down” when you’re reprimanded for being too competitive. To paraphrase, “You will start believing you can’t do it.”
Trust the process, study the books, believe in the master plan up above, and keep showing up to work every day. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching as a result of this ordeal. I was surrounded by people who had faith in me and wouldn’t let me give up. I only direct their rocket ships down “victory lane” when they show up here.
Third place went to Denny Hamlin, fourth to Chase Elliott, and fifth to Kyle Larson. William Byron finished sixth after Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, and AJ Allmendinger, while Christopher Bell came in seventh.
Ryan Blaney’s peculiar accident
Ryan Blaney’s crash into the wall just before the finish line was the most peculiar thing that happened. On the restart, as the field checked up behind Brad Keselowski, Blaney slid after being struck by Kyle Busch. After leaving the infield grass and crashing onto the pit road tarmac, Blaney appeared to try to spin his vehicle around, but instead of making a quick left turn, he crashed straight into the wall.
Unlike the outside walls of the track, which have a SAFER barrier to prevent injuries, the wall Blaney struck was made entirely of concrete. The accident reinforced the necessity for SAFER barriers along all open walls at NASCAR courses.
After Blaney exited his car and walked over to the infield care facility, he was examined and sent on his way. Even though he wasn’t going very fast when he hit the wall, he considered the accident the most burdensome impact of his career.
Wheel wobble caused by Tyler Reddick
Before a loose wheel derailed Tyler Reddick’s hopes in the second stage, his vehicle was among the fastest in the first.
Reddick took a pit stop under green, but his crew failed to appropriately secure his right rear wheel. Reddick returned to pit road after realizing the wheel wasn’t properly tightened. Reddick’s car began to sway as he slowed to reach pit road; he spun as he entered the pits, and a tire broke off.
Reddick received a warning and dropped to the end of the lineup due to the altercation. The incident damaged his vehicle, and he wound up two laps down and in 30th place.
Kevin Harvick finished 24th after making the last green-flag pit stop with a flat right-rear tire. Harvick would have finished in the top five if not for the flat tire.