Sunday, April 2, 2023

TRUCKS: Chad Chastain the first of many to find the wall at Texas

PHOTO: @chadchastain36

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Chad Chastain scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Saturday’s 250 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #41 GlobalTranz Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 17 of 172 laps.

The finish came in Chastain’s fifth series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the #41, the 181st from a crash, and the 432nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 59th for the #41, the 1,324th from a crash, and the 1,881st for Chevrolet.

The younger brother of aggressive Cup Series standout Ross Chastain, 24-year-old Chad has just recently begun his own ascent through the ranks. In 2016, he won the Pro Late Model championship at 4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda, Florida, one of many tracks on which he’s competed across the southeast. Teamed with Al Niece, for whom Ross nearly won the championship in 2019, Chad made his Truck Series debut at Watkins Glen in 2021 and finished 34th. Three more starts came last year, but each time he finished off the lead lap in 30th place. Just two weeks ago, he made his XFINITY debut with DGM Racing at Atlanta, and this time recovered from an early spin to finish on the lead lap in 24th.

Chad was one of 36 drivers entered for as many spots, though not all of these drivers would fill the field. A pair of practice crashes on Saturday, each involving small teams, cut the field to 34. First was Kaden Honeycutt, whose #04 Carquest Ford struck the wall between Turns 1 and 2. Tyler Hill was set to make his season debut in the #56 MF1 Fantasy Racing Toyota, but wrecked off Turn 2 and spun down the backstretch. As both Honeycutt and Hill’s teams loaded up early – Hill would have started 34th with Honeycutt 35th, but neither were credited in the final results – Chad ran 26th-fastest in practice and secured the 22nd starting spot in qualifying with a lap of 180.735mph (29.878 seconds).

Spencer Boyd was already ranked behind both Honeycutt and Hill as one of two other trucks that failed to complete a qualifying lap. Boyd’s #12 Ft. Worth Stockyards Chevrolet, which had electrical issues, was ranked behind Matt DiBenedetto, whose #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet took 33rd after right-front suspension issues. Boyd and DiBenedetto incurred redundant tail-end penalties for their unapproved adjustments, which kept them 33rd and 34th, the last two trucks in line. However, when the green flag dropped, Boyd had one more truck behind him – G2G Racing’s Armani Williams, who ran an old-bodied #46 Blue Sprig / Motivity Toyota.

Chad's truck in the garage after the wreck.
PHOTO: @stephen_stumpf

It wasn’t long before Chad found trouble. Just seconds after the green flag, as the field came off Turn 2, he spun off the corner and backed into the outside wall, pushing in the rear bumper. As the first caution fell, a trailing Matt DiBenedetto passed him down the backstretch as Chad pulled to the apron and came to pit road. Chad would ultimately be credited with 17 laps before he pulled behind the wall, done for the day.

Taking 33rd was Keith McGee, who this week swapped rides with teammate Mason Maggio at the Reaume Brothers Racing entry. While Maggio ran the all-white Ford, now the #33, McGee ran a neon-hued #34 that earned the Lucky Dog on Lap 35’s competition caution, then fell out of the race just after the ensuing restart. Matt DiBenedetto’s struggles from practice continued into the race as he lost multiple laps, then pulled behind the wall in the final stages. 

The Bottom Five wasn’t completed until the day’s most frightening wreck on Lap 145. Dean Thompson’s #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota was running a strong 12th when he pushed high off Turn 4, got into the wall, then slid to the inside of the track. Several trucks approached the scene with some cutting into the infield grass to avoid contact, creating an even larger smoke screen. Into this came Matt Mills, who didn’t see Thompson’s truck, then felt his brake pedal go to the floor when he tried to stop. The resulting impact was followed by Armani Williams, who didn’t slow in time to avoid rear-ending a slowing Trey Hutchens in the #14 Quality Roof Seamers Chevrolet. Both Hutchens and Williams joined the pileup, further damaging Thompson’s truck. All four drivers climbed from their trucks, but Thompson and Mills soon sat on the track. Thompson was then placed on a gurney and transported by ambulance to the infield care center, then to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center for further evaluation. After scans, Thompson was discharged from the hospital just after 11 P.M. local time.

Hocevar finally breaks through in messy finish ahead of several underdogs

After another grinding crash eliminated race leaders Nick Sanchez and Zane Smith during their side-by-side battle into Turn 1 on the final lap, Carson Hocevar escaped the melee and was awarded the win – his first in his 59th series start. The run came just one week after his first career XFINITY Series start at COTA, where a transmission failure on SS-Green Light Racing’s #07 also gave him his first last-place finish. 

Runner-up Chase Purdy in the #4 Bama Buggies Chevrolet earned his career-best finish in 57 starts, which was also his first Top Five. Jake Garcia also earned his first Top Five in only his 9th start, taking 5th in the #35 Adaptive One Calipers Chevrolet. Hailie Deegan tied her career-best 6th-place finish in the #13 Ford Performance Ford, a mark set last fall in Talladega. Ryan Vargas finished 8th in the #30 Rangeline Group Toyota, scoring his first top-ten finish in only his second series start, and did so at the scene of his first XFINITY top-ten finish in 2020, when he also ran 8th for JD Motorsports. 

And just outside the Top 10 in 11th place came Mason Massey – his career-best finish in 11 series starts and first finish better than 17th. Massey accomplished this in Josh Reaume’s #33 Ripper Magoos Ford, yielding the team’s fourth-best finish and second-best on a non-superspeedway behind Mike Marlar’s 4th-place run in Eldora in 2019.

*This marked the first time the #41 finished last in a Truck Series race at Texas since June 9, 2000, when Randy Renfrow’s #41 Farris Concrete Dodge lost the transmission after 7 laps. The number most recently finished last at Knoxville last June, where Tyler Carpenter broke the driveshaft on Al Niece’s #41 Aggressive Chevrolet in his series debut.

34) #41-Chad Chastain / 17 laps / crash
33) #34-Keith McGee / 39 laps / vibration
32) #25-Matt DiBenedetto / 122 laps / vibration
31) #20-Matt Mills / 134 laps / crash
30) #14-Trey Hutchens / 137 laps / crash

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) Niece Motorsports, TRICON Garage, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (2)
2nd) Toyota (1)


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