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Ross Chastain held his head high as fireworks went off around the track following Sunday night’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Chastain finished tops among non-playoff drivers as the NASCAR Cup Series opened up its 10-race postseason stretch at the 1.366-mile South Carolina oval. The third-place result validated that Chastain and the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team could be closing in on a potential race victory before Trackhouse Racing absorbs the operation in 2022 and Chastain becomes the second driver alongside Daniel Suarez.

But it was who Chastain was racing against at the end that added an extra pep to his step — Kyle Larson.

“It was really cool to say we were close on speed to the 5 car,” Chastain said. “That’s crazy. We were close at Nashville (Superspeedway) and we were close here. Similar package, you know, you see a trend. So, we’ll keep working on that.”

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