Byron grabs Darlington Southern 500 Victory
Chevy drivers Chastain and Larson Tangle… Again
By Dave Hascall
(Darlington, SC) Ross Chastain has been a hot topic for the last month in NASCAR Cup racing. His Hail Mary last season at Martinsville’s short track was an instant classic. It was replayed ad nausea and will follow him for the rest of his career. However, his hard-driving, no-holds-barred driving style is starting to rub competitors, media pundits, and some fans, the wrong way. Yes, Chastain did parlay that improbable last-lap stunt at Martinsville into a second-place finish in the 2022 championship; the Floridian has been winless for over a year.
For 2023, Chastain has had a fast Trackhouse Racing Chevy but he always seems to be involved in some controversy. Two weeks ago Chastain simply drove into the rear of Brennan Poole at Dover. Poole was laps down, never wavered from his line but was still hit. Poole’s car spun but clipped Kyle Larson, who was on the lead lap and a threat to win. Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington featured more Chastain / Larson antics. Coming down to the end, the pair of Chevy drivers seemed to be the best suited to win NASCAR’s oldest marquee event. One restart towards the end had Chastain pin Larson against the wall. Larson had to lift but a crash behind that ended Martin Truex, Jr.’s day, leading to another restart. This time Larson was better prepared and he held his ground. Chastain drifted up in his number 1 while Larson stayed much further off the wall. They inevitably touched. Chastain spun in front of Larson and the pair, not wanting to give an inch, continued to crash while the caution flew. Chastain couldn’t continue while Larson limped home 20th. Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels said of Chastain “That’s three races (the 1) has taken us out of. Three races!” Chastain admitted he caused the melee by attempting to squeeze Larson back to the wall but his car pushed up instead, and he turned himself.
After the clean-up, William Byron found himself in the catbird seat. The race went into overtime and most of the cars behind Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevy were wounded. Byron took the win easily over Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliot, Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace. Truex and Chastain took the first two stages, respectively.
It was redemption for Byron, after last year’s Southern 500. Byron had led that race up until turn three of the final lap when second-running Joey Loganao didn’t lift and pushed Byron’s 24 into the wall. Logano went on to win after basically not even trying to pass Byron clean.
Larson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series Race and Christian Eckes took Friday’s Camping Series Truck race.