NASCAR

NXS: Keselowski earns first win at Darlington Raceway after Chastain and Harvick tangle

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Brad Keselowski won the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 for his first victory at Darlington Raceway.

He won the 147 lap race by 0.738 seconds over NASCAR Xfinity regular Cole Custer. Custer said, “it was a pretty good run.††We just need a little bit more, but Iíll take a second at Darlington.”

On a lap 117 restart, following a wreck between Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick, Custer was alongside Keselowski but couldn’t stay with him. Though Custer maintained his second place track position he never made up the distance lost on the eventual race winner. “For some reason I canít get going on restarts.††I just spin the tires, so I donít know if thatís something we can do transmission-wise, or I just need to work on something,” Custer mused after the race.

Chastain won both the first and second stage in his debut race with Chip Ganassi Racing.†When the race restarted for the third and final stage Chastain was tasked with holding off Brad Keselowski. On the restart, he cleared the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series champion but Keselowski didn’t back off. After giving Chastain a full rearview mirror, Keselowski tried a move to the inside through turns three and four — he didn’t clear him. By the time they returned to turn-one Chastain had a car length lead.

A few laps later, Keselowski drove deep into turn-three, passing Chastain but without enough grip he slid into the outside wall. Bouncing off it he lost momentum, allowing Chastain to cross over his tracks and pass him to the inside. Kevin Harvick, who had been watching the pair battle, passed Keselowski too.

Ross Chastain wheels the No.42 DC Solar Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing. Photo by Boyd Adams.

Now it was Harvick’s turn. Coming into thickets of lapped traffic, Chastain rode the outside line and weaved around the slow cars. He used lapped traffic as a pick down the front straightaway, but in turns one and two a lapped car was running his line. Harvick dove under him, as the pair drove past the lapped car Harvick nudged up into Chastain’s left-side. The contact continued, Chastain was pushed into the wall. When he slapped the wall Chastain went back down the track and hooked Harvick in his right-rear quarter panel.

Harvick’s No. 98 Ford Mustang was rendered uncompetitive. Angry, Harvick drove to pit road and parked his car in Chastain’s pit stall. After a few moments of upset gestures, Harvick was told to move along by a NASCAR official. Harvick took his car to the garage and was then, because he was involved in a wreck, was taken to the infield care center.

Once he was cleared of any injuries, Harvick briefly spoke to NBC Sports. “Youíve got a really inexperienced guy in a really fast car and made a really bad move, and then wrecked me down the back straightaway and hooked me to the right.††Thatís probably the reason that heíll never get to drive many of them again.”

 

Chastain went on to race the rest of the event but with a track-bar issue he finished two laps down in 25th. He said, “once we hit the wall, man, I was out of control,” disagreeing with Harvick’s insinuation.

“Nobody belongs here,” Chastain said, regarding Harvick’s comments on future opportunities. “Like we’re all very fortunate and there’s a greater path and greater plan for all this but just to get this opportunity and just to be one of the 40 guys out here and have a shot to win is — no matter what I’ll never forget this. I’ll never forget the peaks and valleys of this weekend.”

“I don’t think I did enough to get this opportunity. Yeah I’m down on myself a lot but I’ve said it time and time again, nobody deserves this. … more people win the lottery than get this opportunity.”

“To have somebody like myself, some watermelon farmer from Florida that started racing when he was 13 because my dad just wanted to go have fun. And literally sitting on two by fours on my race seat so I could see over the dash and having fun with it, and then all the cards falling and everything to get to this point and to be running my first Southern 500 tomorrow with Premium Motorsports. Having four years of time in the No. 4 car with Johnny Davis and Gary Keller is — man if it all ended today and I had to go back to the farm I’d have no regrets about anything we’ve done.”

“I just really hope that people smile, like there was somebody different racing with these guys. Smile about that if nothing else.”

Indirectly responding to Harvick’s criticism, over Twitter Chip Ganassi said, “well everyone, I say Chastain simply helped himself to many future opportunities.”

Also on Twitter, Jeff Carpoff, the CEO of DC Solar, the sponsor of Chastain’s No.42 car said, “great job today! Harvick is an idiot.”

 

Snakebitten No.60 crashes out for the ninth time this season

 

Racing into the third lap of the event, Austin Cindric was tagged in the left-rear by Ryan Truex on the exit of turn-four. Skidding across the front stretch, Cindric shunted the inside retaining wall. The wreck marked an early end to his final race of the year in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 NASCAR Xfinity Series car.

“My only mindset coming in today was to learn 200 miles around Darlington.††Thatís all I cared about,” said Cindric.

This is the fourth time Cindric has registered a DNF for the team. He shares the ride with Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski.

“All I cared about was getting a good run for this team and to be taken out on lap two sucks.††It sucks bad.††It just shows the level of respect some guys race with and itís tough.††It bothers me a lot, but youíve got to keep fighting.††You canít give up.††Itís been a tough year.Ē

Austin Cindric rolls across the front stretch after colliding with the inside SAFER barrier. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

Considering the incident “just one of those racing deals,” Cindric said,† “itís hard for the spotters to see off of (turn) four, but either somebody cleared themselves up too early or, I mean, we were right by the wall so thereís nothing I can do.”

“I get turned on and plug the fence two laps into the race.††Iím really frustrated about that.††Iím frustrated that this is my last race with the 60 car.††This team has worked really, really hard and has nothing to show for it.††Itís a bummer to end on this kind of a note, but weíll keep moving and keep fighting.††Iím in the 12 car at Indy.††It should be a good run and then finish out the year in the 22, so hopefully we can stay above the playoff cut line and keep going.”

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