Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Classic Darlington Chaos Gives Ross Chastain Surprise Win

In a Nutshell

Ross Chastain led two laps all night, but they were the only two he needed.

Chastain won the Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington Raceway on Friday (May 10) after the more dominant trucks of the night found trouble around him. Chastain got a good final restart in overtime to take the win in just his second Truck Series start of 2024.

See also
Ross Chastain Wins Darlington Truck Race In Overtime

It’s Chastain’s first win in the Truck Series since Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2022 and his first win in any of NASCAR’s premier series since the Cup Series finale at Phoenix Raceway in 2023.

Perhaps more importantly, the first watermelon smash of 2024 comes at the Lady in Black.

Nick Sanchez finished second, followed by Ben Rhodes in third. Christian Eckes and Ty Majeski rounded out the top five.

The Top Truckers at Darlington Raceway

Winner: Ross Chastain
Polesitter: Nick Sanchez
Stage 1 and 2 Winner/Most Laps Led (77 of 147 laps): Corey Heim
Biggest Mover: Matt Mills, Timmy Hill, Mason Massey, and Thad Moffitt – all finished 14 spots ahead of where they started
Rookie of the Race: Thad Moffitt

Top Storylines of the Race

  • Sanchez won the pole for the race, but he was forced to start in the rear after the team discovered the right rear hub was leaking and needed to be replaced. Despite the setback, Sanchez was able to rocket his way through the field several times throughout the night.
  • A rare mistake from Kyle Busch took him out of contention on lap 2. Making his first start at Darlington (an unreal stat in and of itself) and his final Truck Series start of the season, Busch was battling Heim for the lead when his No. 7 truck got loose and snapped around out of turn 2. He suffered significant right front damage after catching the inside wall on the backstretch. Busch was able to return to the track, but then he cut a tire and hit the wall moments later on lap 12, ending his night for good. The DNF is Busch’s first in the Truck Series since Pocono Raceway way back in 2017, and it’s his first last-place finish ever in 175 truck starts.
  • A huge crash to begin the final stage took out several contending trucks, most notably Heim, who swept the stages and led 77 laps. His TRICON Garage teammate Dean Thompson got loose underneath him off of turn 2 (similarly to Busch) and both trucks hit the outside wall. Rajah Caruth, Matt Crafton, Layne Riggs and Jack Wood – all drivers who were capable of finishing inside the top 10 – also piled in. Of the six trucks involved, only Riggs and Wood were able to continue on.

The Winning Move

With Heim out of contention after the big one, Eckes was in the catbird’s seat for the lead. However, the handling went away on the No. 19, allowing Majeski to take the lead. Majeski managed to open up as much as a six-second lead over Chastain and looked well on his way to victory.

That was until Wood hit the wall with six laps to go and brought out a caution to set up overtime.

Majeski won the race off of pit road over Chastain, and he lined up on the outside with teammate Jake Garcia behind him. However, Chastain was able to get a better restart on the inside with help from Colby Howard.

As Majeski and several others made contact and hit the wall behind him, Chastain was able to sail away to the win, holding off a hard-charging Sanchez to do so.

See also
Late Caution Foils Ty Majeski's Shot at Darlington Truck Win

Championship Rundown

As Chastain is a Cup Series driver, no one new locked themselves into the playoffs. As it stands, Sanchez, Caruth, Eckes, and Heim are the only drivers locked in. Seven races remain, so more than 10 winners is possible, though highly improbable at this point.

Heim’s crash allowed Eckes to open up his point lead to 14 points, but sweeping the stages helped ease the points loss for Heim. Sanchez sits 57 points back, the only other driver mathematically within one race of the regular season championship.

Back at the cut line, just 28 points separate the drivers running between eighth and 12th. In particular, Rhodes holds a five-point margin over Grant Enfinger for the final playoff spot. Rhodes has had a pretty rough start to his championship defense, but a win would easily get his season turned around.

Rookie Report

How about Thad Moffitt! He was able to survive the chaos of Darlington to earn a career-best 18th. He earns a hard-fought Rookie of the Race. Hopefully, this is the finish that he needs to get his season turned around with brand-new team Faction46.

Since we’re halfway through the season, and the only rookies who competed at Darlington are Rookie of the Year contenders, let’s take a look at the ROTY standings with 14 races left in the season.

Riggs leads the standings by 64 points over Moffitt, mainly thanks to earning an additional 37 points in stage points, as he hasn’t had much better finishes than his ROTY opponents.

No. 38 – Layne Riggs (21st): 151 points
No. 46 – Thad Moffitt (18th): 87 points (-64)
No. 66 – Conner Jones (24th): 81 points (-70)

One Big Takeaway From This Race

Sometimes, all it takes is one moment to change everything.

While the big one to open the final stage ended the nights of several top-10-worthy drivers, it opened the door for several other drivers (outside of the top finishers) to bring home solid finishes.

Chase Purdy led the charge with a sixth-place finish, his second top-10 of the season. Howard came home right behind him in seventh, though it would have been better had he not had contact with Sanchez on the restart. Ty Dillon found himself in the top five late before slipping to a still-respectable ninth, a finish reminiscent of his old Truck Series days in the early 2010s.

Just outside the top 10 was Matt Mills, who finished 11th and spent many laps in the late stages just inside the top 10. He was followed by Lawless Alan and Timmy Hill, the former of which has his third top-12 finish of 2024. Meanwhile, Mason Massey rounded out the top-15 after starting 29th in the 32-truck field. Massey, along with Mills, Hill, and Moffitt (who finished an aforementioned career-best 18th), all finished 14 spots ahead of where they started.

Not to mention drivers who were on track for season-best finishes before late-race chicanery shuffled them back. Garcia was on track for his first top-five finish of the year before the contact between Sanchez and Howard forced him into the wall and back to 20th. Bayley Currey overcame an early flat tire to run solidly in the top 10 before making an unscheduled pit stop late, relegating him back to 22nd.

Riggs also saw another chance for a good finish slip away after he was caught up in the big one, while Mason Maggio was having a great day inside the top-20 before a mechanical issue took him completely out of the race.

See also
Friday Faceoff: Is Kaden Honeycutt the Next Breakout Star?

All of these runs came after a simple (but huge) six-truck pileup to begin stage three. While some trucks struggled after that, others came to life. Several underdogs had some time up front, even if the final result doesn’t show it.

It’s just another classic example in NASCAR: It isn’t over until the checkered flag flies.

Talkin’ Truckers

Chastain on the win:

Sanchez says he needed more time to catch Chastain:

“To win a race, you’ve got to use your head. That was just pretty dumb.” – Howard calls out Sanchez after late-race contact:

Majeski, Eckes, Alan, Enfinger, Taylor Gray and Tanner Gray all break down their evenings:

“Racing will throw some strange things at you sometimes.” – Heim disappointed after crashing out as the dominant truck of the night:

Thompson and Caruth give their perspectives of the big one at the beginning of the final stage:

Paint Scheme of the Race

It’s always tough to pick a paint scheme of the race for throwback weekend. Most of the schemes on track look really good.

See also
Truckin' Thursdays: The Top 5 Best Throwback Paint Schemes of 2024

However, this week’s edition of “Truckin’ Thursdays” covered my top-five favorite paint schemes (plus an honorable mention) this year, so the paint scheme of the race will come from that column.

With that being said, it was a tough pick, but I have to give it to Tyler Ankrum‘s beautiful Days of Thunder throwback.

If you read that “Truckin’ Thursdays” article, I feel like this shouldn’t have come as a shock.

Ankrum’s No. 18 Chevrolet Silverado was redesigned to look like the Hardee’s No. 18 from the film, driven by fictional character Russ Wheeler (played by Cary Elwes). It might be one of the most accurate throwbacks, especially given that it’s a fictional scheme.

This is just a beautiful scheme. So beautiful, in fact, that the fans agreed, and voted Ankrum’s truck ‘Best in Class’ for the Truck Series.

Next Stop

Not to worry Wilkes County, we’re coming back this time.

The Craftsman Truck Series heads back to North Wilkesboro Speedway for the second year in a row following its miraculous revival. The track underwent a total repave between last year’s race and this year’s. So expect each all-star week race – from the CARS Tour races to the Truck race to the Cup Series All-Star heats, Open and Race – to run a lot faster overall than last year.

Kyle Larson, subbing for an injured Alex Bowman, won the series’ return to Wilkes County in 2023. However, due to conflicts with Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Larson’s presence at the track for even the All-Star Race will be minimal. He will not compete in the truck race for the chance to defend his win.

Coverage for the Wright Brand 250 will begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 18. FOX Sports 1 will carry the television broadcast, while Motor Racing Network will carry the radio broadcast.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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