By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Ross Chastain will have a new home. Well, sort of on a technical standpoint.
The current Chip Ganassi Racing driver will drive for Trackhouse Racing’s second NASCAR Cup Series team in 2022. The very team that’ll take over Ganassi’s NASCAR program at the end of the 2021 campaign.
Although sponsorships or crew chief weren’t announced Tuesday morning, Chastain’s deal is a multiyear effort and will have a new car number. For the first time since 2001, the No. 42 will unlikely be on the grid in any capacity as the Floridian will bear the No. 1 Chevrolet.
Known as the “Melon Man,” Chastain was excited to still be a part of the Cup grid next season.
“The excitement is always the name of the day with an announcement like this. But it’s more than just excitement for another team,” said Chastain during the Zoom call.
“I’ve been now crazy enough, in this sport for 10 years and didn’t know what I was getting into 10 years ago, but what’s so crazy is that the first race I ever ran, I bought a seat and drove the next race after Justin had raced the same truck, the No. 66 truck for Stacy Compton. I had no idea how full circle this all could come. And it’s more than just another team. I’ve been in it a lot now.
“I’ve been fired and I’ve left teams and I’ve done a lot of things and I could do a lot of things better, but to bring it full circle with somebody I’ve known my entire time in this sport, and do it with this group, and I mean this when I say it truly feels like it’s more than just another team. And I think that’s what made this process of getting me in this car so much easier for both sides.”
Chastain’s discussions with Trackhouse’s co-owner Justin Marks simply began with a text conversation. They have that connection where a conversation can be done that way, but there was some business elements he couldn’t control. That being the Chevrolet camp, whom Chastain has been happy to be a part of over the years. More so, in his current tenure with CGR.
“When the acquisition (of Ganassi) happened, I told Justin, I just texted him, and said I want this. It was just simple. I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t confer with anybody,” Chastain explained.
“I knew Justin on that level, and I wanted it. From there, there were a lot of moving pieces and that’s the business side that I’m not involved in. But this is a big organization now. This is a large part of Chevrolet,” Chastain continued.
“Working through a lot of that stuff and my tenure now with Chevrolet is really from my career and changing the trajectory that it was on. It’s gone a lot of different ways over the years, and I am very blessed to find a home with Chevrolet. So that was important to me.
“And the relationships that I have there, both internally here in this race shop, but also across the broader Bowtie family where I’ve driven for is where I’ve made the most relationships.
“It took a little bit of working through the process, but I know for myself, and I think I speak for Justin, that we wanted it and whether or not it all worked out, we had to work through all the other stuff. But fundamentally, down at the core of it, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.”
Text proposition aside, Marks knew Chastain is an incredible asset. He’s an aggressive competitor, who will help a teammate if needed. As seen in last month’s race at Atlanta when he played a key role helping Kurt Busch fend of his brother Kyle to win the race.
“He’s got a lot of fight and a lot of want in him. And I tell people this. When there’s a nuance when you’re looking at drivers and you’re trying to determine what skill sets they’ve got and what kind of potential they have,” said Marks.
“To me, I’m a huge fan of people that have had to work hard against adversity and against odds to try to get there they have gotten in their careers. And I think it’s that fight in those years of working hard toward something when it’s very difficult along the way, that pays dividends at the Cup level, especially late in races when you’re sitting in good equipment.
“Sometimes you see these guys that on a green-white-checkered and they have to top the field for their first win, which is one of the most difficult things to do in all of racing. But it’s more than just those two laps. That driver has to dig down into everything he’s fought for in that moment to deliver. And Ross has that personality profile. He’s delivered.”
Marks added it’s key for a guy like Chastain to build the program with Daniel Suarez, who’ll stay in the No. 99 Chevrolet next season. Especially, in this current championship format where winning is everything.
“You want somebody who knows how to win. And winning is a talent that’s independent of how fast you can go over a couple of laps, how well you can quality, what your feedback is like. There’s a talent to winning. And it’s so hard to win in the Cup Series,” said Marks.
“Now, in this playoff-era, you want guys that you know if you build a company around them, put cars underneath them, and people behind him that give them the opportunity to win, that they’re going to go and do that job. Ross and Daniel have both proven that when they’ve been in those situations, they can deliver. The rest we can build around them.”
Entering Watkins Glen, Chastain is currently 144 points behind Tyler Reddick, who currently holds the 16th and final playoff spot. He’ll either have to continue his solid results to points his way into the post-season or simply win over the next four weeks.