Saturday's motors: Chastain earns first Xfinity win
Las Vegas — Ross Chastain held off Justin Allgaier for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory Saturday, pulling away on the final restart for a long-awaited breakthrough in his 132nd series start.
Chastain led 180 of the 200 laps, but had to dig in on several restarts to stay in front of Allgaier, the regular-season Xfinity champion.
Just two weeks after the 25-year-old Chastain had a much-publicized dust-up with Cup series star Kevin Harvick when the drivers hit each other at Darlington, he earned a difficult victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I’m just a watermelon farmer from Florida!” said Chastain, who indeed worked on his family’s watermelon farm until his teens. “I’m not supposed to do that! Man, that’s a testament that anything in life is possible.”
Chastain swept all three stages in the second start of his three-race contract with Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, persevering each time the action slowed in the wreck-filled race. In Victory Lane, he gleefully held a watermelon aloft like a trophy.
Cole Custer was third, followed by Christopher Bell and Elliott Sadler.
Violent wrecks dominated much of the action. Matt Tifft spun without contact on the 64th lap and wrecked Ryan Reed, with both cars going hard into the wall.
“That was a tough one,” Reed said. “Knocked the wind out of me pretty bad. The right side is all banged up. I am all good. Nothing broken or anything. I will just be sore tomorrow.”
The race also had two wrecks in the final 25 laps, delaying the finish significantly. Chase Briscoe hit the inside wall of the back stretch and went airborne while spinning after a sequence of three-wide racing alongside Tyler Reddick, who hit him. Briscoe safely got out of his flaming car.
Allgaier clinched the overall regular-season series title during the second stage in his JR Motorsports Chevrolet, completing an impressive second-half surge in the Xfinity season. Allgaier won three of the previous five races before pushing Chastain in the regular-season finale, and he’ll head into the playoffs as a clear contender.
With a series-leading five victories this season, Allgaier gets 15 bonus points to carry into the 12-man playoff race. Custer finished second in the overall standings, earning 10 bonus points.
Along with Allgaier and Chastain, the playoff field includes Custer, Bell, Sadler, Reddick, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Tifft, Ryan Truex, Austin Cindric and Reed.
The playoffs begin next week at Richmond.
Ryan Hunter-Reay snatched the pole from championship contender Scott Dixon in the final seconds of qualifying at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Hunter-Reay crossed the timing line in 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds to earn his first pole of the season and deny Dixon the top starting spot. Dixon, who is vying for a fifth IndyCar title, went 1:17.7599 and was atop the leader board until the very end when Hunter-Reay shot to the top.
Dixon has a 29-point lead over Alexander Rossi in the standings and the pole would have given him an additional point before Sunday’s race. The event is worth double points and Rossi, a teammate of Hunter-Reay’s at Andretti Autosport, starts sixth.
Reigning champion Josef Newgarden qualified third and was followed by Marco Andretti and Patricio O’Ward, who qualified fifth for his IndyCar debut. A nine-time winner in Indy Lights this season, the Mexican advanced into the Fast Six round in his Harding Racing entry.
Will Power had a rare off day in qualifying and wound up seventh, out of contention to challenge for an eighth pole this season. It’s Power’s lowest starting position of the season.
At Singapore, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took a brilliant pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen under floodlights.
Hamilton produced something special to set a blistering time and secure a record-extending 79th pole position in Formula One and 200th for a British driver.
With title rival Sebastian Vettel qualifying only third, it was a great night for Hamilton and he surprised even himself by how quick he was.
“My heart’s racing, I’m having an anxiety attack,” he said, letting out a laugh of relief. “I don’t think there was a moment in the lap that was wide. It was perfectly on the limit, it felt like one of the best laps (I’ve done). I managed to maximize on every corner.”
Vettel is under pressure as the title appears to be slipping away from him. Both Vettel and Hamilton are bidding to join Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio on five F1 titles and move level second all-time behind F1 great Michael Schumacher on seven.
Vettel is 30 points behind Hamilton and racing on a track where seven of the past 10 races have been won from pole.
After Singapore, there will only be six races left, and the German driver cannot afford to fall further behind Hamilton in Sunday night’s race.
Clay Millican powered to the No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position in the playoff-opening Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa.
Millican took his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the year and 18th overall with his Friday pass of 3.723 at 330.72 mph.
Courtney Force topped the Funny Car lineup at the first of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. She picked up her 11th No. 1 qualifier of the year with a 3.907 at 323.27 from Friday in a Chevrolet Camaro.
Tanner Gray was the fastest in Pro Stock, and Matt Smith took the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gray had a 6.542 at 210.47 in a Camaro, and Smith had a 6.828 at 198.20 on Friday.