FORT WORTH, Texas – Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola secured spots in the NASCAR All-Star Race via stage victories in the All-Star Open Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Joining them in the All-Star Race will be Matt DiBenedetto, who was the winner of the annual fan vote for drivers who didn’t qualify for the All-Star Race through traditional means.
Chastain won the opening 20-lap stage, outlasting Reddick during a two-lap dash to the checkered flag. Chastain started from the rear of the field after NASCAR officials discovered the aero ducts on his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet did not conform to specifications. His crew chief, Phil Surgen, was also ejected from the track due to the violation and the team was fined $25,000.
Luck ended up being on Chastain’s side during the first 20 laps, with three caution periods slowing the action and allowing him to make up ground during each restart. The final caution came with less than 10 laps left when Erik Jones spun and collected the No. 99 Chevrolet of Daniel Suarez.
When the field formed up for the restart, Chastain lined up on the outside of race-long leader Reddick. Chastain battled Reddick for a lap on the outside, with the two making contact multiple times down the backstretch.
Coming out of turn four Reddick appeared to have Chastain cleared, but Chastain drove back to Reddick’s outside and was able to clear him through turns one and two to take the lead and the stage win to earn himself a spot in the All-Star Race for the first time.
“I get to race with my heroes. It’s really cool,” said Chastain. “It’s been a good weekend on-track, but off-track has obviously been really tough. It just fired me up more, though. This McDonald’s Chevy was obviously really good to come from the back like that and race with guys like Reddick and those guys.”
“It’s a dream come true. I’m living my dream as a farmer and now I get to go NASCAR racing in the All-Star Race with my heroes. It’s amazing.”
In the second 20-lap stage, Reddick started on the pole and went right back to work. This time there would be no cautions to slow things down, allowing Reddick to lead every lap despite a late challenge from Aric Almirola to race his way into the All-Star Race for the first time in his young career.
“It was kind of disappointing to give up there to Ross at the end of the first segment,” Reddick said. “I was really hoping to get this iCash Autos Chevrolet into the All-Star Race. It looked like he was there but I was too loose to pull up and block. I just played the safe bet, let him go by and thankfully we executed in the second segment and got this thing in the race.”
The final 10-lap stage started with Almirola taking the top with DiBenedetto to his inside. They stayed side-by-side for a lap, but when Almirola got to turn one and into the traction compound in the top lane he was able to pull clear and into the race lead.
He wasn’t challenged for the remainder of the 10-lap dash, allowing him to secure his fourth All-Star Race appearance.
“It’s been a really tough year and these guys just continue to work their guts out and bring the best cars we can,” Almirola said. “At Texas today we’ve got a really fast car. We took the long way in, but I’m still glad we’re racing for a million bucks.”
Despite falling short in the final stage, DiBenedetto was named the winner of the fan vote to take the final spot in the All-Star Race. It’ll be his second appearance in the All-Star Race after racing his way into the event last year during the All-Star Open.
“We struggled a little bit with the car there, but we’ll try and work on it,” DiBenedetto said. “It means a lot to get all the votes from the fans. Can’t tell them how much I appreciate that and the opportunity to be in the All-Star (Race).”