Chastain, who was eliminated early in the Cup playoffs and led just one lap in the previous nine races, turned out to be too tough for the 2023 title contenders to handle in Sunday’s race.
The Trackhouse Racing driver led 157 of the 312 laps but lost his lead during the final round of green flag pit stops.
He passed Kyle Larson on a restart with 30 laps to go to reclaim the lead and held off a late charge from Ryan Blaney to earn his second win of the 2023 season and fourth of his career – all coming at Trackhouse.
After Chastain took control of the race, Blaney and Larson engaged in a fierce battle for the runner-up position, which would decide the championship winner. Blaney finally emerged with the position with 19 laps to go.
Sunday’s race is the first time since the current playoff format debuted in 2014 that the champion did not win the season finale.
“Just so proud of this team. Unbelievable year, unbelievable playoffs for us,” Blaney, 29, said. “To win back-to-back Cup titles for (team owner Roger) Penske, that’s so special. Having my family here, winning my first Cup title, I got emotional in the car. I’m not a very emotional guy.”
Asked what was going through his mind in the final laps, Blaney said, “No yellow (caution). I didn’t want a caution. Once I got to the white (flag), felt pretty good about it. It’s just about getting there, finishing it off. Didn’t want a yellow. Everyone kept it straight.
“I want to shout-out also Kyle (Larson) and William (Byron), that was fun racing those guys all day, and (Christopher) Bell, unfortunately he broke. Racing those two guys at the end, racing clean, that’s what racing is all about. It was a lot of fun.”
The championship is the second consecutive for Penske. Joey Logano won last season and took a similar path as Blaney to the title – winning one race early in the season and then pulling a pair of critical wins in the playoffs to advance to the title race.
Larson ended up third in the race, Byron was fourth and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five.
Byron led all 60 laps but held off a late charge from Harvick and edged him by 0.470 seconds to take the Stage 1 win. Chastain was third, Wallace fourth and title contender Larson rounded out the top five. Championship contenders Bell and Blaney were ninth…