After a whirlwind of a week, Chastain and his No. 45 Niece Motorsports team found redemption in Madison, Illinois Saturday night with a victory at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Chastain and his pit crew took a late race gamble by taking gas only with no tires, while everyone else took tires. He was able to cycle back out as the leader, but an unfortunate caution came out with 15 to go. This would set up a late race restart with seven to go. However, Chastain was able to hold everyone off and proved that, in the end, track position mattered most, to earn a big win at Gateway.
“Of course, we thought we could,” Chastain said in his post-race interview with MRN Radio about his chances of winning. “If you don’t come to a racetrack expecting to win with an operation like this and people like this…man, you don’t need to be coming here. This is what racecar drivers live for with opportunities like this, you can’t let them slip away.”
“We’re very fortunate tonight,” he added. “We did not have the fastest truck at times, we executed, Phil (Gould, Crew Chief), (Shannon) Rush and the whole brain trust behind me, Al Niece (Team Owner) he’s not here, ah he missed another one, but look at that splitter. That thing is off the ground tonight.”
In what started as a gloomy and rainy day for the Truck Series, with rain showers being persistent across the St. Louis area, qualifying was once again canceled and set by owner points. The teams, however, were given one practice session to get their trucks ready for the race once the rain cleared away.
It was a caution free race for the most part with barely any incidents.
Stewart Friesen broke away early and Led for 19 laps until championship points leader Grant Enfinger took over the lead on Lap 22 in the first stage and never looked back. Enfinger would go on to win Stages 1 and 2, having a dominant truck early on in the race.
There were a couple of minor incidents, as the No. 0 of Gregory Rayl brushed the wall and the No. 1 of Cody McMahan hit the wall off the backstretch on the final lap of Stage 1.
Friesen somehow received back bumper damage to his truck after the restart for Stage 2. Last week’s winner Brett Moffitt experienced issues with his engine but got it fixed in the long run.
After a couple of quiet stages, the intensity and action picked up for the third and final stage that began with 83 to go. It was where Chastain would first be seen battling up front for the lead along with, Harrison Burton and Enfinger as well.
Chastain really began reeling in the race leader and pole sitter Christian Eckes for the top spot with 45 to go, although, everyone had to stop one more time to make it the rest of the way.
The No. 45 crew placed their bet after a short-lived battle with Burton, pitting with 28 to go Eckes also pitted. Then, Chastain recycled back into the race lead with 20 laps to go hoping for no caution, as the team did not take tires, while everyone else did.
However, an unfortunate caution came with 15 to go for Burton and Sheldon Creed who made contact with each other in Turn 4. This would eventually set up a late race restart with seven to go.
Despite all the circumstances and challenges, Chastain and his fan favorite No. 45 Niece Motorsports team earned a popular victory tonight at the 1.250-mile paved track located near St. Louis, Missouri.
“Yeah, I mean, less tires and less fuel, screaming at me to save fuel while I’m out running away from the leaders,” the Florida native described to MRN Radio. “When it’s your time, it’s your time, everything happens for a reason. If last weekend happened for a reason, I’m okay with it, the good Lord is good I believe and he came through for us tonight. My dad is here, came with my girlfriend, my Aunt and Uncle. We normally don’t have much family here. Got my late model crew chief here, man, we came a long way since those days, loving every minute.”
This is Chastain’s second win of the season, his first since Kansas back in May. He also picks up the winning bonus from The Triple Truck Challenge of $50,000.
Chastain led three times for 21 laps and currently sits 38 points outside the top 20. There were five cautions for 30 laps along with eight leaders among 14 lead changes.
Grant Enfinger still holds the championship points standings over Stewart Friesen by 54 points.
Up Next: The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series will head north to Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, June 28.