Ross Chastain walks past the 22-car field to advance to his first NASCAR All-Star race
FORT Worth, Texas — Ross Chastain went from the back of a 22-car field to the lead in his first NASCAR All-Star Race winning the first stage of an open qualifying race on a hot, slick track in Texas.
Chastain had to go to the back of the field after a violation found in the prerace inspection of the then No. 42, which led to the ouster of his crew chief. It came a day after Chastain finished third in the Truck Series race in Texas, before the truck was disqualified following a postrace inspection violation.
Tyler Reddick led the first 19 laps in the first section, before resuming with two laps to pass by Chastain.
There were already 17 drivers qualified for Sunday night’s All-Star Race, when the winner will receive $1 million. The other three places were being determined by a three-section, 50-lap open race, with another driver added by fan vote.
Outside temperatures were in the high 90s, the heat index was near 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was too hot inside the cars for the NASCAR All-Star Open qualifying race under the late afternoon sun. The track’s temperature in the mid-140s is the highest temperature ever recorded this season.
The starting order for the All-Star Race was determined by random draw, polesitter Kyle Larsen, who has won the last two Cup races and was the defending Cup champion for Hendrick Motorsports and part of three consecutive 1–2 finishes with the All-Star Race. Huh. Star winner Chase Elliott, who is in sixth place.
The All-Star became the first driver to race after a carefully packed 20-lap opening section. Another 20-lap segment followed before the final 10-lap shootout.
There will be six segments of up to $1 million for the All-Star Race for the winning driver – each of the first four will consist of 15 green-flag laps, preceded by a 30-lap segment that should include a four-tire stop for the fastest pit. The crew would get $100,000, and then 10 laps for the checkered flag. Based on a random draw, the top eight to 12 places will be reversed before the second and fourth sections, and the entire field of up to 21 cars will be reversed before the third.
The lineup for the longest segment will be based on the cumulative finishes from the first four segments, and the final order of that fifth segment will determine the starting order for the final short shootout.
While the rules package for the cars will be similar to the typical configuration and downforce for a 1 1/2-mile track, a slightly less tapered spacer will reduce horsepower to a range of 500–510, less than the typical 550.
Texas is the third separate track in three years for the non-points All-Star race. Chase Elliott won last summer in Bristol, where it was moved from Charlotte, which has hosted 34 of the first 35 All-Star races due to COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina.
The All-Star Race in Texas serves as a sendoff for old-school NASCAR promoter Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway President working his last day working for Speedway Motorsports.
It is a full-circle finish for the 62-year-old Gosage, who has been considering stepping down for at least two years. He was selected by Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith to oversee the 1,500-acre complex since its groundbreaking in 1995, two years before the first Cup race at the track which involved a major crash in the first turn of the first lap.
Gossage was a youth public relations director at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1992 when, during a news conference promoting NASCAR’s first night’s All-Star race, one of his stunts literally set Smith’s hair on fire. When Smith threw a giant light switch rigged by Gossage to illuminate Charlotte Speedway’s new lighting system, sparks flew.
After the final hiatus on Sunday night, three decades after he thought he was headed for the jobless line, Gossage plans to spend Monday at the pool with his three grandchildren.
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