Editor’s Note: This story, which appeared in the October 2019 edition of SPEED SPORT Magazine, was published before Ross Chastain was announced as a full-time competitor for Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020.
Ross Chastain is a busy race car driver, often competing in each of NASCAR’s three national touring series on the same weekend. His participation in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series helped him acquire the nickname “The Busiest Driver in NASCAR.”
This spring, Chastain broke the all-time NASCAR record for most consecutive races run across all three national series to start a season, surpassing the mark of 22 set by Kyle Busch in 2008. Through the end of August, Chastain had competed in 57 of 67 races in the three series this season.
In the trucks, he’s competing for the championship and was in the thick of the title hunt with three victories and 15 top-10 finishes as the calendar turned to September.
At the same time, Chastain is a lousy planner.
“I don’t manage time very well,” the 26-year-old native from Alva, Fla., which is near Fort Myers, said with a chuckle. “I just go all day and finally go to sleep. And when I wake up, I go all day again.
“I’m not the best planner. I just take it as it comes. I could be a lot better.”
Other nicknames Chastain has acquired in his racing career include “The Watermelon Man” and “Melon Man.” It’s those two nicknames that formed the foundation for Chastain the person and Chastain the race car driver. In a way, without the root of those nicknames, Chastain likely wouldn’t be a race car driver.
About 15 years ago, Chastain’s great aunt researched the family’s history and discovered Pierre Chastain left France in the early 1700s and arrived in America. Soon after, he got involved with farming and grew just about everything. More than 300 years later, the Chastains are still farming.
These days, the family has a watermelon farm in Punta Gorda, Fla. Ross Chastain is an eighth-generation watermelon farmer. Growing up, life was busy on the family farm.
“It kept me out of trouble,” he said.
So did racing.
“When I started racing at 13, there was no time to get in trouble,” Chastain said. “I look back at it and there were long days and nights at the farm, whether it was getting the fields ready to plant or planting or cold snaps coming through and trying to cover the plants up or harvest and everything in between to racing … between the two of them, it kept me from going down the wrong path.
“When there are plants in the ground, you never clock out,” he added. “It’s the same thing I apply to racing. There’s no days off; full speed ahead and make the best business decision to help myself down the road.”
Chastain’s interest in racing started with his dad’s hobby racing and seeing other kids his age competing.
“All race car drivers, once you get that addiction, once you realize you have a problem, you wake up thinking about race cars whether you’re racing front-wheel drive, four-cylinder cars at your local track or racing in the Cup Series or anything higher or lower. There comes a day you realize all you think about is racing,” Chastain explained.
That was the case for him. Once introduced, he raced four-wheelers or an old Pontiac in the pasture. Thankfully, he had support to do it from those in his life, including his family. Because of that, Chastain raced as often as he could, starting in a crate late model in 2007. However, fitting racing into the schedule was difficult because of an element out of his control: weather.
“That was always tough,” Chastain said. “Florida is a tough to race through the summer. You’re going to have an afternoon rain shower or thunderstorm somewhere around you during the summer, so a lot of Saturday night races get rained out. The tracks got to where they were trying to race through the winter and take the summer off and other places would take the winter off and race through the summer. That was tough because we plant the first week of January. That was our busy time. We always struggled to run the full season.”
Click below to continue reading.