Ross Chastain picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s SpeedyCash.com 200 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #45 Plan B Sales Chevrolet finished 3rd, but was disqualified after completing all 147 laps.
The finish, which came in Chastain’s 94th series start, was his first of the season and first since June 16, 2019, 47 races ago, which was also by disqualification. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 4th from disqualification, the 5th for the #45, and the 408th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 39th for the #45, the 42nd from disqualification, and the 1,785th for Chevrolet.
Since he was last featured here on the Truck Series side, Chastain has strived to make a name for himself in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. He spent many of those years in JD Motorsports’ #4 Chevrolet, at times outperforming in the equipment as one of the best drivers on the circuit without a win. That changed in 2018, when he landed a ride with Chip Ganassi Racing and sponsor DC Solar. He nearly took the win at Darlington before a late-race tangle with Kevin Harvick, took the checkers in Las Vegas, and secured a full-time ride with the team for 2019.
But when scandal erupted at DC Solar after the FBI raided their headquarters, the deal fell apart, shutting down Ganassi’s XFINITY team in the process. Chastain then had to piece together deals with various teams and little backing.
This opened the door for Chastain to run part-time, then full-time with the blossoming Kaulig Racing. In 2019, he scored his first win for the team in the summer race at Daytona, and in 2020 put on a sterling late-race battle with Denny Hamlin at Darlington. This led to him ultimately reuniting with Chip Ganassi, this time as a Cup driver. After Kyle Larson was fired from the team for uttering a racial slur, Matt Kenseth endured a frustrating return to the series which saw him run well back in the running order the rest of the pandemic-affected season. The ride became Chastain’s at the start of this year, and he’s since shown speed with career runs on the road courses of COTA and Sonoma.
|Creed's truck towed to the garage|
PHOTO: Brock Beard
Chastain has also continued to run a few races in the Truck Series, reuniting with the Al Niece team he nearly carried to a championship in 2019. He began his partial schedule this year in Atlanta, finishing 7th in a “throwback” scheme to Terry Labonte’s Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet. He then finished runner-up to Kyle Busch in Kansas, charging from 34th on the grid of 40 starters. Both of these came in Niece’s #44 entry, which has since scaled back. Chastain’s ride at Texas would be the #45 previously driven by Brett Moffitt before he declared for XFINITY points after Richmond. Circle B Diecast, which sponsored all of Chastain’s runs this year, was again the backer, and he’d roll off 24th.
Taking 36th and last on the grid was Ray Ciccarelli, who would make his first Truck start as a driver in 2021. Ciccarelli drove the #49 Sam’s Dock Toyota with the nickname “Ol’ Right Side Ray” on the roof rails. He’d be joined at the rear by Howie DiSavino III, who was a last-minute driver change with team owner Jordan Anderson in the #3 Good Sam Chevrolet. Anderson had elected to focus on his XFINITY ride later that day, which unfortunately saw him contend for last place (LINK). Ciccarelli’s truck couldn’t get rolling with the rest of the field, but managed to fire soon after the push truck arrived.
When the race started, the last two spots belonged to DiSavino and Keith McGee, who had an entourage cheering for him from pit road. These fans wore shorts decorated with images of his #33 The Mullet That Changed Chevrolet, and waved a flag from pit road when McGee crossed the line in 30th. McGee pulled ahead of DiSavino at the end of Lap 1, but Norm Benning soon fell into DiSavino’s clutches. Benning, who ran Camping World colors on his #6 Chevrolet once more, had an exhaust note that was noticeably deeper than the rest of the field, and he took over last on Lap 3.
On Lap 6, with NASCAR already warning Benning to “get a plan together here” as he was about to lose a lap, trouble broke out in Turn 2. Sheldon Creed, the defending series champion, had pushed his #2 LiftKits4Less.com Chevrolet into the PJ1 in Turn 1. The truck switched ends and backed into the outside wall, causing the rear deck to protrude perpendicularly from the rear of the vehicle. He made it to pit road, where the crew strapped everything down with tape. Creed lost a lap in the process, and was joined at the back by Tate Fogleman, who had nose damage on his #12 Da-Quick Clip / Randco Chevrolet, and Matt Crafton, who had electrical problems on his #88 Chi Chi’s / Menards Ford.
Crafton took last by Lap 13, followed by Creed’s injured truck around Lap 16. Creed attempted to catch Benning as the leaders caught them both, and by Lap 17, the top six drivers had all put the #2 a lap down. Moments later, Creed spun off Turn 2 and hit the wall a second time, wrecking his truck beyond repair. Creed climbed from his vehicle and was released from the care center, his truck towed through a rear entrance to reach the garage in Turn 1. On Lap 80, he was declared out due to the accident along with Stewart Friesen, whose #52 Halmar International Chevrolet nosed into the backstretch wall in a later wreck.
|Ciccarelli pushed to the garage with 40 to go|
PHOTO: Brock Beard
“I had a really fast truck,” said Creed in the garage. “Just climbing my way through – I don’t know where I went through there. I guess I was close to the Top Ten. And I got really tight behind the 19 (Derek Kraus) and I lost the nose really bad, which I’ve never really done. I’ve never lost the nose that bad. As soon as I touched the spray, I was backwards. Just a product of not having practice and they spray it, and you can’t touch it. It sucks until it comes in, and I was the first one to go around in it. I’m sure you’ll see more today that’ll do that.” The truck was even more of a handful after the repairs. “I was just running the PJ1 like I did every other lap, and I’ll tell you, it’s like oil. Like, it’s no control up there.”
I asked Creed for his thoughts about the controversial PJ1 substance added to the upper groove of the track’s turns. “I think it’s cool when you practice and all three series can practice and slowly work it in, but it sucks when it’s you, right? I like it sometimes and at certain tracks, but I don’t have the answer, nor am I gonna complain about it.”
Creed appeared certain to score what would have been the first last-place finish of his Truck Series career, and only the second in series history scored by the #2 (the other by Dave Ashley on April 22, 1995 at Mesa Marin). But that changed in post-race inspection. Per Bob Pockrass, Chastain, who had finished 3rd, was disqualified for violating a rule that the throttle body must be supplied by the NT1 engine supplier without modification.
Creed thus moved to 35th with Friesen 34th. Drew Dollar was another driver eliminated in a hard single-truck crash, this one destroying his #51 Sunbelt Rentals Toyota. Rounding out the group was Ray Ciccarelli, whose crew pushed his truck behind the wall with 40 laps to go, citing brake trouble.
*Chastain led 5 laps on Saturday and was the most recent driver to lead laps in a Truck Series race and be classified last. He led 141 laps in the Iowa race on June 16, 2019 before his technical infraction.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #45-Ross Chastain / 147 laps / disqualified / led 5 laps
35) #2-Sheldon Creed / 18 laps / crash
34) #52-Stewart Friesen / 52 laps / crash
33) #51-Drew Dollar / 68 laps / crash
32) #49-Ray Ciccarelli / 89 laps / brakes
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports (4)
2nd) CMI Motorsports, GMS Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Rackley-W.A.R., Reaume Brothers Racing, Roper Racing (1)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP