As children, we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up. No matter what our dreams were, they were normally rooted in our passions. Whether you imagined being a doctor, a chef, a musician or an athlete, we all saw ourselves fulfilling these visions at the highest level possible.
This past weekend in Las Vegas, Ross Chastain’s childhood dreams were realized when he dominated the NASCAR XFINITY race, capturing the first victory of his career. From the west coast of Florida, Chastain, a native of Alva who grew up on a watermelon farm, said the win was a testament that anything in life was possible.
Chastain likely believes that anything is possible because he’s come a long way from being a kid on a watermelon farm. Chastain debuted in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011, but, like many talented drivers looking to break into auto racing, struggled to find a full-time ride. After running just two races at the start of the 2014 season, Chastain lost his ride with Ricky Benton Racing and didn’t race again in the series until the final race of the year at his home track right here in Homestead.
Chastain refused to give up on his passion for racing after a tough 2014 season though, landing a full-time ride in the XFINITY Series with JD Motorsports. He has driven for JD Motorsports for the past four years, but started gaining attention this season by contending for a playoff spot while also earning some respectable finishes in the Monster Energy Series with Premium Motorsports.
Chastain’s hard work and persistence paid off as Chip Ganassi Racing recognized his success and offered to let Chastain drive three XFINITY races in their No. 42 Chevrolet, a car that’s currently second in the owner’s points standings.
In his first race in the No. 42, Chastain went head-to-head with some of NASCAR’s best drivers at Darlington Raceway as he held off the likes of Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott to win the first two stages of his career. What was remarkable about Chastain’s performance in Darlington is that he didn’t back down from any of NASCAR’s elite talents.
After leading 90 laps, Kevin Harvick contested Chastain for the lead, but Chastain wasn’t about to let the 2014 MENCS champion get to the front of the race easily. He battled and bumped with Harvick,
ultimately leading to both drivers wrecking. The clash with Harvick earned Chastain respect with fans and drivers alike.
Perhaps what gained Chastain the most respect though is what was revealed following the win in his second race for Chip Ganassi Racing. After reaching Victory Lane in Las Vegas, we learned that Chastain was not getting paid to drive the No. 42 car.
Essentially, Chastain was betting on himself to perform at a high level in Ganassi’s superior equipment. While it may have seemed like an easy decision to take the ride, it was quite a sacrifice by Chastain to drive for free. Chastain was willing to take the risk though, realizing that he may be on the cusp of fulfilling his lifelong dream to win races in one of NASCAR’s national series.
In his races with Ganassi, Chastain’s
passion for auto racing have really begun to shine through. During this time, it is evident that Chastain is out on the track with nothing other than his love for the sport, which was on full display following his victory last weekend. As he smashed a watermelon on the finish line, I couldn’t help but enjoy watching him celebrate. It was great to see the pure enthusiasm and joy of someone achieving a lifelong goal.
Thanks to four stage wins and a race victory during his two races in the No. 42 car, Chastain is riding into the XFINITY Series playoffs in sixth place. As the playoffs commence Friday night in Richmond, Chastain will enter his final scheduled race with Ganassi Racing. If he manages to get another win, Chastain would automatically advance to the series’ Round of 8, and from there it’s easy to imagine a scenario where he could end up in the Championship 4.
Just a kid from a watermelon farm in Alva, Chastain would love nothing more than to find his way back home, but this time because he’s racing for a championship here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So as you tune into the XFINITY Series playoffs, keep an eye on Chastain. He serves as a reminder to never give up on your passions and to always believe in yourself. As he continues to prove worthy to drive the No. 42 for more races, he has a whole bunch of us believing in him too.
NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND
Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 PM (ET)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway
Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90
Friday, September 21 at 7:30 PM (ET)
NASCAR XFINITY Series GoBowling 250 at Richmond Raceway
Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off this weekend. The series will return for the final race of the Round of 8 of their playoffs on Saturday, October 13 at Talladega Superspeedway.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
September 21 Fast Lane Friday
September 22 Performance Driving Group
September 23 Sports Car Club of America
September 27 Miami Exotic Auto Racing
September 30 Legacy Track Dayz
2018 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race
Nov. 17 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race
Nov. 18 Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race