Ross Chastain watermelon

Honoring his family’s farming legacy, after each win Ross Chastain now has a tradition of slamming a watermelon onto the ground as part of his post-race celebration.   

Last week the News Leader had a chance to talk with Ross Chastain, the driver of the Trackhouse Racing Number 1 Cup Car.

Ross, who grew up on the family farm in Alva, Florida and now lives in North Carolina, began racing late model cars at the age of 12 on Punta Gorda Raceway. He first competed in the Camping World Truck Series in 2011 and has gone on to win in each of NASCAR’s top series to include two wins this year in Cup. Ross locked into the Championship Playoffs round of eight despite a disappointing finish on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Raceway.

We began the interview by asking how his family and their farm had faired in Hurricane Ian. Ross told us, “We’re just a little inland about 30 miles of Fort Myers Beach. It’s hurt. A lot of neighbors are not in their houses, they flooded. We’re fortunate my family is all safe. Now it’s the rebuilding stage.” He continued, “I’ll sneak over either before or after the race (Dixie Vodka 400) and see family and see how the cleanup is coming.”

We then asked Ross about the Next Gen Car and the safety meeting that NASCAR held with drivers on Saturday, Sept. 8th, discussing ongoing changes to the car. He commented, “I’m listening in these meetings to a lot of guys I’ve looked up to and idolized and now I’m working with them and racing against them, I’m finding my way. There’s pinpointed efforts moving forward on the safety of this car. Safety never stops. I’m getting to evolve with the car and the sport, instead of coming in a lap down the way I would have been with the old car.”

In addressing the advantage of having participated in testing last month at Homestead Miami Speedway, he said, “It’s big, this new car is wild to drive. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever driven. Homestead is its own animal of progressive banking and running up next to the wall. I hit it two times on the day I was testing. We learned a lot but what does that do for the racing, I don’t know. That’s why we go race.”

In discussing the HMS track itself, Ross said, “When I got into the sport in 2011 it was a big deal for me to race at Homestead and Daytona, so close to home, where friends and sponsors could come out and see me. The first year I was racing at HMS qualifying got rained out and I had to drive someone else’s truck. Throughout the years I’ve really struggled to compete there. Now I feel we are on a more even playing field. I’ve figured out somet hings and I learned a lot at the test and I can’t wait to get back down there.”

At the time of the interview Chastain was 3rd in points among the eight drivers competing to be one of the four to run for the Championship at Phoenix. We asked how that position would affect the way he and his team would race. He responded, “It doesn’t because we’re all so close in points. It’s a numbers game. We’ll weigh out the risk versus reward lap by lap and stage by stage to try to put ourselves in the best position for the points and the win. I can’t change the way I drive for points. I have to drive as hard as I can and figure it out as we go.”

Last Sunday at Las Vegas Ross led 68 laps but was passed with three laps to go by Joey Logano whose victory locks him in to the Final 4. Chastain’s second place moved him to second in the standings, 18 points above the cut line.

The Dixie Vodka 400 at HMS Sunday will be Ross’s next chance to “drive as hard as I can” to lock himself into the Championship 4.

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