CONCORD, N.C. – The Ross Chastain walking through the garage this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL is not the same person from a month ago, before he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He’ll openly admit that, as well. Chastain was an underappreciated name in the Xfinity Series garage area as recently as the start of this season, but well known for getting the most out of his equipment, no matter what level he was racing at.
That led to a call from Chip Ganassi Racing and a three-race deal to move from JD Motorsports with Gary Keller – his primary team – over to the potent No. 42 Chevrolet, giving Chastain a chance to prove himself.
Chastain promptly repaid Ganassi’s belief in him by winning both stages at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and contending for the race win before late contact with Kevin Harvick, then sweeping both stages and the overall race two weeks later at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
The win, as much as the opportunity to contend up front in itself, is something that Chastain told SPEED SPORT has turned his life “upside down, in the best way possible.”
“It’s been mostly mentally life-changing, man,” Chastain explained. “It’s a huge confidence-builder, and that’s what this sport is all about, is momentum and confidence. For me, a lot of that is knowing now that in the right circumstance, things like this last few weeks can happen and we can be successful.
“It’s so tough when people go so long without having any kind of real success, even though just to be here is incredible, but Jeff and Paulette (Carpoff) and everyone from DC Solar … what they did for me has changed my life forever, beyond NASCAR, in the true sense of the words.
“I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s something that can never be taken away from me.”
The win propelled Chastain into the playoffs, despite the fact he would have already been in on points.
It also sparked a valiant social media push from Chastain’s fans for CGR to provide the No. 4 JD Motorsports team with additional technical support during the playoffs.
While Chastain confirmed on Saturday morning that additional push hasn’t happened yet, he admitted it remains a possibility. Chastain currently sits fourth in the standings.
“A lot of the potential for (Ganassi support) depends on what happens here and at Dover, as far as us possibly making it to the next round,” noted Chastain. “We’ve had talks about things, but the trigger hasn’t really been pulled yet for a full-blown deal or anything like that.
“Even still, they’re already helping in more ways than we could have ever imagined, just in being able to talk with them in casual conversations – we’re picking up every scrap of information that we can,” Chastain added. “It’s been really cool to walk through their shop too, from the mechanics on the floor that stop me to thank me for the job I did racing for them and performing to the business guys too that have told me how I’ve made their jobs easier.”
Chastain’s path to the playoffs continues with the Drive for the Cure 200 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, where the Florida driver already has a plan for how to tackle the Charlotte ROVAL.
“This is going to be like our superspeedway approach, only 2.0,” noted Chastain. “It’ll look ugly for us most of the day. We won’t qualify well – on purpose – and we won’t run well in the beginning for the same reason, but when there’s less than 10 cars left with good brakes, a good transmission that’s working right, has all the fenders on it, hasn’t crumpled the splitter up … that’s when I’ll be there.
“We probably won’t score stage points, and we know that, but we’ll be in contention at the end.”
There was one piece of good news even before race time, as Chastain confirmed that the Florida Watermelon Ass’n will sponsor his previously-unmarked No. 4 Chevrolet for this afternoon’s race.
“It was crazy to think that our playoff car, sitting fourth in points, wouldn’t have anything on the hood for this weekend … so the Florida Watermelon Association came through last night and we decaled the car this morning,” said Chastain. “I can’t thank them enough for doing that.
“We have a lot to prove with this (No.) 4 car and I’m excited to do it.”