The Boyd Gaming 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was held over the weekend on Saturday, completing the third round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) season. Entering the weekend, JD Motorsports with Gary Keller (JDM) drivers set their sights on winning big in the desert to start their season off in the right direction.
Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 4 EZ Angus Ranch / RM Parks Inc. Camaro SS, showed up to the 1.5 mile intermediate oval with his head held high after a couple of solid weeks in Daytona and Atlanta left him sitting ninth place in the overall points standings. Due to Qualifying being rained out for the second consecutive week, he rolled off the starting grid from the 15th position. Most of his race was spent around the 12th to 14th position, and as the laps clicked off, he seemed to be setting himself up for a solid Top 15 run.
That was all until a speeding penalty late in Stage 3 was handed to the No. 4 team. Ross was forced to drive back down pit lane for a pass-through penalty, putting him one lap down to the leaders. Luckily, a caution flew shortly after serving the penalty, allowing Ross to earn the Free Pass and get back on the lead lap. The final laps were dangerous, as multiple crashes ended many competitors’ races. However, Ross was able to stay calm, cool, and collected, and narrowly avoided disaster to bring home a 7th place finish, collecting JDM’s first Top 10 of the year.
“You know, Las Vegas is a city based on luck.” said veteran crew chief, Paul Clapprood. “Once we got the speeding penalty, I thought our race was over. But as soon as I got word of the caution, I knew we were back in it. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and Ross did a fantastic job avoiding all of the carnage. This is a great way to start our West Coast Swing off.”
Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 “In Memory of Hippie” Camaro SS, also had a solid day in the desert. Owner’s Points had him line up in the 22nd position, but he was able to pass a few cars early in the going, and ran consistently within the Top 20 for the duration of the afternoon. He brought his car home in one piece without a scratch on it in the 18th position.
Sometimes, having a non-eventful race is a good thing, as the driver and team are able to execute their plan flawlessly without having to overcome any obstacles. Saturday’s race proved just that, and the team is ecstatic because they are able to take his car to the Auto Club Speedway in just a couple of weeks’ time without making any major repairs to it.
BJ McLeod, driver of the No. 15 Camaro SS, was also able to earn his second Top 20 in a row in Las Vegas, and was also the driver who picked up the most positions from the JDM stable. After starting in the 29th position, McLeod was able to claw his way up the leaderboard one by one, and actually was able to crack the Top 15 at one point during the race. He ultimately brought his car home in the 20th position, and currently sits in 23rd in points.
Stephen Leicht, driver of the No. 01 “In Memory of Hippie” Camaro SS, didn’t quite have the same success as his JDM teammates this weekend, but was able to earn his best career finish at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The No. 01 team started from the 30th position, and fought hard all day right at the edge of the Top 25. Leicht brought his Camaro SS home in the 27th position, and now moves up a couple of positions in points to the 29th spot.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, this Saturday for the 15th annual running of the Arizona 200 on the 1-mile low-banked oval right outside of Phoenix. Be sure to tune in to see JDM drivers Chastain, Smithley, McLeod, and Leicht take on the newly reconfigured track challenges both drivers and teams in the desert heat. TV broadcast will be live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:00 PM local time (4:00 PM Eastern Time).
9th. Ross Chastain (-43)
17th. Garrett Smithley (-87)
23rd. BJ McLeod (-99)
29th. Stephen Leicht (-116)