Local driver Ross Chastain wins first career NASCAR race at Las Vegas

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Ross Chastain led 180 of 200 laps and survived multiple late-race restarts to win his first career NASCAR race, winning Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas.

The Alva native and Riverdale High School graduate was running in the second of three races for car owner Chip Ganassi, and Saturday was a bit of redemption after his first run in the car, two weeks ago at Darlington Raceway, resulted in a late-race collision with Kevin Harvick that spoiled his day.

There was no such drama here.

“Two to go, I had a big ol’ tear coming down my right eye, and I was like ‘oh no, don’t cry dangit,’” Chastain said of the final laps. “When I crossed the finish line I didn’t key up, I just put my head down and the tears were gone. They were all congratulating me on the radio, and I just wanted to listen and hear it.”

“I’m happy I didn’t ugly cry down the front stretch.”

Chastain won the first two stages of the race with ease, and after taking back the lead from Justin Allgaier with 50 laps to go, led all but one lap the rest of the way when he and Allgaier were battling for the lead on a late restart.

“Holy cow. I’m just a watermelon farmer from Florida. I’m not supposed to do that,” Chastain said to NBC Sports Network while standing at the start-finish line immediately after the race.

Chastain’s family owns several watermelon farms, and it has become the driver’s namesake since he entered NASCAR. On Saturday, Chastain brought a watermelon with him into Victory Lane and the post-race press conference, before smashing it on the start-finish line a few hours after the race.

Saturday was the final race in the regular season for the Xfinity Series, with their seven-race playoffs kicking off at Richmond next week. The points reset for the NASCAR playoffs, and with 10 playoff points, Chastain sits sixth on the 12 driver playoff grid with 2010 points, 19 behind regular season champion Allgaier with 2039.

Chastain has one more drive remaining in the No. 42, next week at Richmond, before he is expected to return to his usual No. 4 owned by JD Motorsports. In his absence, Landon Cassill piloted the No. 4 to a 13th place finish.

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