1st-timers Chastain, Reddick race into NASCAR All-Star event

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Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick (AP photos)

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Ross Chastain advanced to his first NASCAR All-Star race after a couple of inspection violations at Texas, joining Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola and Matt DiBenedetto moving on to the main event Sunday night when the winner gets $1 million.

The quartet joined the 17 drivers who has already qualified for the annual non-points All-Star race.

Chastain and Reddick advanced by winning 20-lap stages of the 22-car open qualifying race, before Almirola took the checkered flag for a final 10-lap shootout. DiBenedetto, who won the open qualifier to get in last year’s All-Star race, got in this time on a fan vote.

Chastain had to go to the back of the field for the start of the qualifying race after a violation discovered in the prerace inspection of the No. 42 that led to his crew chief being ejected. That came a day after Chastain finished third in the Truck Series race at Texas before his truck was disqualified after a postrace inspection violation.

“It’s been a good weekend on track, but off track has obviously been really tough. It just fired me up more,” Chastain said. “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.”

After getting passed by Chastain on a restart with two laps remaining in the first segment, Reddick led all 20 laps of the second one to get into his first All-Star race.

“It’s kind of disappointing to give it up there to Ross at the end of the first segment,” Reddick said. “I was too loose to really pull up there and block, so I just played the safe bet and let him go by. Thankfully, we executed in the second segment and got in the race.”

The outside temperature was in the upper 90s, with the heat index close to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The track temperature in the in the mid-140s, by far the highest this season.

The starting order for the All-Star race was determined by random draw, with Kyle Larson on the poll after winning the last two Cup races and being part of three consecutive 1-2 finishes for Hendrick Motorsports with defending Cup champion and All-Star winner Chase Elliott, who starts sixth.

There will be six segments — the first four being 15 green-flag laps each, before a 30-lap segment that must include a four-tire stop for which the fastest pit crew will get $100,000, and then 10 laps to the checkered flag. Based on a random draw, the top eight to 12 spots will be inverted before the second and fourth segments, and the entire field of up to 21 cars will be inverted before the third.

The lineup for the longest stretch will be based on cumulative finishes from the first four segments, and the finishing order of that fifth segment will set the starting order for the final short shootout.

While the rules package for the cars will be similar to the usual configuration and downforce for 1 1/2-mile tracks, slightly reduced tapered spacers will lower the horsepower to the range of 500-510, short of the normal 550.

Texas is the third different track in three years for the non-points All-Star race. Chase Elliott won last summer at Bristol, where it was moved from Charlotte, which hosted 34 of the first 35 All-Star races, because of COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina.

The All-Star race at Texas serves as a sendoff for old-school NASCAR promotor Eddie Gossage, the Texas Motor Speedway president working his last day for Speedway Motorsports.

It is a full-circle finish for the 62-year-old Gossage, who had been considering stepping down for at least two years. He was chosen 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 that included a big crash in the first turn of the first lap.

Gossage was a young public relations director at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1992 when, during a news conference to promote NASCAR’s first nighttime All-Star race, one of his stunts literally set Smith’s hair on fire. When Smith threw the giant light switch rigged by Gossage to highlight the Charlotte speedway’s new lighting system, sparks flew.

After the final laps Sunday night, three decades after he thought he was headed for the unemployed line, Gossage is going out on his own — and planning to spend Monday at the pool with his three grandchildren.

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