The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2012 season began with a triple-overtime thriller that saw several big hits and multi-truck wrecks cause less than half the field to finish on the lead lap. One of the less fortunate trucks was SS Green Light Racing’s Ross Chastain, who was taken out of the event just six laps from the finish.
Ross qualified the National Watermelon Association Toyota 24th on Friday afternoon with a lap of 50.58 seconds at 176.96 mph and would start next to the No. 7 of John King.
Crew Chief Brian Berry chose to give his rookie driver an opportunity to gain valuable experience and elected to run conservatively at the back of the field for the first half of the race. The strategy paid off as Chastain was able to avoid a five-truck melee on lap 19. The veteran crew chief also took advantage of the second caution for debris keeping Chastain out on the 2.5-mile speedway to earn a bonus point for leading a lap.
Through the middle of the event, Chastain hung back in the pack showing patience well beyond his age, waiting for the right time to make a move toward the front of the pack. Once again on lap 84 Chastain was fortunate to be out of harms way when polesitter Miguel Paludo got loose at smacked the inside retaining wall very hard.
When the race went green Berry gave his rookie driver the green light to start making his move and with drafting help from Matt Crafton, was quickly moving into the top fifteen in the high grove. With just six laps left in the scheduled 100-lap event, Parker Kligerman and several others began wrecking right in front of Chastain’s Toyota. Ross stayed to the high side and was almost clear of the spinning trucks when the No. 99 of Brian Silas spun to the outside and just caught Ross’ Tundra in the left rear.
Ross pirouetted through the asphalt off of turn four and amazingly avoided the inside wall where Paludo had hit so hard moments earlier coming to rest on pit road. Ross tried to start his watermelon-filled Toyota, but there was no spark as damage from the contact had ripped away all the power cables to the battery box leaving the melon with no juice to re-fire. Chastain was credited with 28th position in the final rundown.
Three more cautions would occur over the races final laps with fellow rookie and former SS Green Light Racing driver John King taking the checkers for his first NCWTS victory “We had a truck just as fast as the winner did, we started the race right next to him.” Chastain said. “That was the tale of two races, one wins and the other one get’s 28th.”
“We were just riding around at the back of the pack getting some experience and trying to stay out of trouble. Once Brian told me it was time to go, I hooked up with Matt Crafton and we were making a good move in the outside lane.”
“Brian Berry made great calls and everybody on the SS Green Light team did a great job tonight. I can’t say enough for the amount of effort that went into this race. Our plan was to ride around until 10 to go and it all went well until the side drafting got too aggressive. We had a fast Toyota and can’t thank the National Watermelon Association and National Watermelon Promotion Board enough.”
SS Green Light Racing PR