Even though he had never seen the Martinsville Speedway before Friday morning, Ross Chastain scored his career best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish Saturday afternoon at the tight half-mile track bringing home his No. 08 Toyota an impressive seventh in the Kroger 250 behind winner Kevin Harvick.
Ross qualified the SS Green Light Racing Tundra 17th on Saturday morning with a lap of 20.07 seconds at 94.33 mph, just slower than he had run in Friday’s practice sessions. “We didn’t qualify the way we thought we would, with the rain it cleaned the rubber off and it tightened it up more than we thought.”
The South Florida teen showed both speed and patience on the tight racetrack despite his limited experience in the truck series moving from seventeenth starting position up to twelfth by lap fifty. Nearly all of the lead lap trucks including Ross took advantage of a caution on lap 77 to change four Goodyear tires, top off with Sunoco racing gas and make adjustments for the mid-portion of the race.
“From the start, the truck was good,” Chastain said. “I could be patient and follow the inside line, drive up on the trucks in front of me and get some positions. After the first stop the truck got tight right in the center of the corner.”
Ross had a great restart when the race went back green and moved from fifteenth to twelfth but then began to loose several spots as the second set of tires did not handle as well as the first, so Crew Chief Brian Berry made a bold call to come back to the pits for the third set of tires on lap 113. Ross was one of only a handful of drivers to pit during the caution and dropped back to twentieth place.
The rookie contender did not stay deep in the field long as he passed several trucks as soon as the race went green and then worked his way back into the top-fifteen by lap 150.
“We took a big swing at it to help out the tightness and the guys made all the right changes, it was worth it because I drove right back up to where we were before we pitted and if we had a long green run we would have been really good.”
The earlier pit strategy of taking four tires allowed the SS Green Light team to only take left side tires under the next caution on lap 159 gaining valuable track positions. Ross held ground in the tricky outside lane from tenth on the restart for several laps and was able to keep his spot in the top-ten, moving to ninth on lap 170.
Several cautions occurred in the races final 25 laps and Ross once again had strong restarts each green flag. With five to go, Ross was in eighth place racing hard with Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jason Leffler for position. On the very last lap, the rookie contender was able to move inside and take the seventh spot at the checkers; his best NCWTS finish in just eighth starts.
“I tried to give a lot today. I really didn’t want to make any one too mad and have any hard feelings the last few laps. It was a pretty cool ending there; it was exciting to say the least. The team did a great job today and we had a lot of fun.”
The solid performance earned Ross the Featherlite Most Improved Driver award for the race and jumped fourteen places to eleventh in the driver standings after two of twenty-two events.
The next NCWTS race for Chastain and the SS Green Light Racing team is a return to the historic Rockingham Speedway for Good Sam Roadside Carolina 200 on April 15th.
SS Green Light Racing PR