Chastain Steals Darlington Truck Win In Overtime Thriller


Ross Chastain in victory lane Friday night at Darlington Raceway. (HHP/David Graham photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – It took a late-race caution, overtime stack-up, and a dash of good fortune to put Ross Chastain and Niece Motorsports in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory lane Friday night.

Chastain was running a distant second to late leader Ty Majeski when Jack Wood pounded the turn-one wall with six laps to go in regulation at Darlington Raceway.

That brought out the night’s seventh and final yellow flag, sent the Buckle Up South Carolina 200 into extra distance, and prompted a final round of pit service for fresh tires at the Track Too Tough to Tame.

From there, Chastain lined up on the inside of the front row for a two-lap sprint, and got the boost to the lead that he was looking for courtesy of a shove from third-running Colby Howard.

When Nick Sanchez tried to go three-wide for second down the apron of the racetrack, a tap to Howard’s left-rear fender sent his Toyota up into Majeski’s Ford, giving Chastain clearance to drive away.

The Alva, Fla., native and NASCAR Cup Series regular for Trackhouse Racing led only the final three laps en route to his first Truck Series win in two starts this year and the fifth of his career.

It was Chastain’s first time in victory lane with the Truck Series since May of 2022 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. All five of Chastain’s wins have come for team owner Al Niece.

But it was extra special considering that in September of 2018, Chastain got his first top-tier opportunity in NASCAR with Chip Ganassi Racing at Darlington, making a win there all the more meaningful.

“I have been trying to win at Darlington for six years,” a breathless Chastain said after his signature victory celebration, smashing a watermelon on the frontstretch. “This is where my career changed, my life changed forever. For better or worse, however the rest of life works out, the first opportunity I had here [in 2018] with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire [Sports + Entertainment] was a launching point.

“To come back and win here … it’s so cool,” he added. “We got a perfect restart when we needed to and were able to do what we had to do. I’m so proud of everyone that goes into this; it was a team win tonight.”

Friday night’s event was delayed by 90 minutes due to a thunderstorm that came through the Darlington area just after 5 p.m. ET, necessitating track drying efforts before racing could get underway.

Once the green flag waved, it was a tale of three stanzas.

The opening act was made up stages one and two, which were swept by Corey Heim as the 21-year-old led 77 of the first 93 laps. After losing the lead to Grant Enfinger on pit road, however, Heim’s night quickly unraveled.

Contact with Dean Thompson on a lap-98 restart led to synchronized spins for both Heim and Thompson off turn two, leaving the oncoming pack with nowhere to go to avoid the chaos.

In all, six trucks were mangled in the backstretch melee, with three-time champion Matt Crafton and sophomore driver Rajah Caruth both taking huge hits along the way. All drivers climbed out uninjured.

That same restart proved to be the start of act two, allowing ThorSport Racing’s Ty Majeski to wrest control of the race from Enfinger and position himself as the dominant driver in the final stage.

Though Christian Eckes used a burst of short-run speed to lead off a lap-106 restart, Majeski rallied back with 27 laps to go and quickly drove off, holding a five-second margin inside of 10 to go.

That led to the pit stops and subsequent overtime attempt that comprised the final act, when Majeski stole the spoils of victory as chaos and confusion developed behind him.

After winning the pole in qualifying but having to start from the rear due to a broken right-rear hub, Sanchez clawed through the field and crossed second at the checkered flag after his brave move on the final restart.

Defending series champion Ben Rhodes was third, followed by Eckes, who faded to fourth after his truck lacked long-run speed in the closing laps before the last caution.

Majeski ended up fifth, far from representative of how much his truck came to life late in the race.

“We should have taken the bottom [on the last restart],” lamented Majeski. “I got the lead on the bottom and then got beat once starting on the top. It was harder to fire on the top; you needed help to do it. [Chastain’s] help formulated before mine did, and I just didn’t get a great launch after that.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t in that situation.”

Chase Purdy, Colby Howard, Taylor Gray, Ty Dillon, and Tanner Gray closed the top 10.

Taylor, the younger of the Gray brothers, appeared to have a truck capable of challenging for the win in stage two after leading three times for 17 laps. However, he pitted for fresh tires under caution at lap 68 and struggled to make up track position after that.

As he was racing back up through the field, a three-wide battle gone wrong with Sanchez created contact that damaged the left rear of Taylor’s No. 17 and hampered him the remainder of the race.

Pre-race favorite and all-time Truck Series wins leader Kyle Busch spun exiting turn two on the second lap of the race and nosed into the inside wall on the backstretch. He tried to rejoin with a damaged vehicle, but cut a tire 10 laps later and hammered the turn-one wall as a result.

Busch finished last for the first time in his Truck Series career after completing just six laps on the night.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season continues Saturday, May 18 at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway with the Wright Brand 250. Cup Series star Kyle Larson won the event one year ago.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.