Trackhouse was beaten by “track position” as Martin Truex’s crew chief, James Small, made a bold decision to take two tires instead of four during the final pit stop of Monday’s rescheduled NASCAR Cup Series race.
Trackhouse driver Ross Chastain’s team went with a four-tire stop and despite have four fresh tires on the Jockey Made-in-America Chevrolet, the track position proved vital in the race to the checkered flag of Monday’s Wurth 400 at Dover, Delaware.
The Monday afternoon race was originally scheduled for Sunday but was rained out and called by NASCAR early in the day.
Chastain was attempting to score his first NASCAR Cup Series victory this season and at times, dominated the race. But was Truex who broke a 54-race winless streak with his fourth-career victory on the concrete oval at Dover.
“It was a great call by James Small to take two tires instead of four,” Truex said after winning the race. “Both Ryan Blaney and Ross raced me clean.”
Truex’s brother Ryan won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday as this was a Truex sweep at Dover.
“This thing was a hot rod, just had to get it up front,” Truex said.
Chastain led 98 laps in the race.
“Whoever got the lead was going to have a great shot at it,” Chastain said. “Gosh, so close. Our Jockey Chevrolet along with Trackhouse, MOOSE Fraternity and Worldwide Express, it’s surreal to race against so many of my heroes.
“I gave I gave away good many of my secrets last year when Martin and I went fishing.”
Chastain began to make his move with 43 laps to go when he put serious pressure on Truex’s car as it caught lapped traffic. But Truex was able to hold off the Trackhouse driver.
With 38 laps to go, Chastain cut Truex’s advantage to 0.15-of-a-second and began to search for the high line.
Once the two main contenders reached lapped traffic, Truex was able to masterfully put two cars between him and Chastain’s Chevrolet.
But Chastain was able to slice his way through lapped traffic and started to close in on Truex’s Toyota before his teammate, Ty Gibbs, suddenly darted in front of him with 15 laps to go to impede Chastain’s progress.
Chastain quickly dispatched Gibbs before a major moment determined the outcome of the race.
Joey Logano’s Ford slammed into the wall in Turns 3 and 4 after it spun backwards through flames and smoke. The Team Penske driver quickly climbed out of the smoking vehicle to safety while the safety crew went to work on the smoldering remains under the hood of the No. 22.
That took the fight to the finish onto pit road as both Truex and Chastain pitted once the pits were opened. Truex was in and out in 5.2 and Chastain was out in 9.5 – the difference is Chastain’s crew chief, Phil Surgen, elected to change four tires while Truex’s team changed just two.
Truex had the track position, but Chastain had more fresh rubber, setting up a seven-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Twenty cars took the wave around because they did not make a pit stop, but with those cars at the end of the lead lap, it was going to be a mad scramble for the factory.
At the “Choose Cone” Truex chose the high line while Chastain chose the low line. Ryan Blaney lined up alongside of Truex’s Toyota with Christopher Bell to the outside of Chastain.
The green flag waved with seven laps to go. Blaney got a great jump and Chastain rocketed to the rear of the lead two cars with the four fresh tires.
Chastain went to the outside to pass Blaney’s Ford and with five to go, set his sights on Truex.
With three laps to go, Chastain’s Chevrolet was 0.54-seconds back and despite his fierce effort, the Trackhouse driver was unable to close the gap at the checkered flag.
Truex won the race over Chastain by a half second.
It was Truex’s 32nd career NASCAR Cup Series victory and came on the track where he won his first NASCAR Cup race on June 4, 2007.
Although Chastain did not win the race, in the bigger battle, he continues to have a great start to the 2023 season in the NASCAR Cup Series championship, once again taking over the lead in the standings.
He took over the championship lead, moving up one position and replacing Christopher Bell at the top of the standings by three points.
Although Chastain was able to fight to the finish, conversely Trackhouse driver Daniel Suarez was an early exit in the No. 99 Pitbull/Freeway Insurance Chevrolet. He was involved in a crash on Lap 35.
“The conditions were perfect. I don’t think it had anything to do with the track,” Suarez explained. “The track was good; the car was really good. For how quick I lost the car, I think I had a tire going down or something because it happened instantly.
“My car wasn’t loose, and I didn’t have a warning or anything.
“It’s unfortunate to be out of the race this early at a race track that we normally run very well at.”