An interview with:
- No matter what happens tomorrow night, is this basically above what you could have expected?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t know that I expected to get all the way here. The most immediate thing, probably a little bit shortsighted on my part was the Triple Truck Challenge races ahead of us. Nine days away to the first one at Texas.
When the Xfinity side started going the wrong direction, we had this opportunity. Three more races than what we thought, win some money for the team. We were short on budget. Everything, it’s going to help.
Went and talked to Cody, our general manager, Al. Do you want to make a push at this? Maybe it works. At least we get more races together. They were both 100% onboard. We set out to make the playoffs. Obviously we know what happened with Iowa, all that. I think it made us stronger now. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
Yeah, the only thing we talked about was playoffs. That’s a big deal. Yeah, this is just awesome.
- We know how big this is for you. How big is this for Al?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It’s awesome. We ran ninth last week. That’s about where we ran back to 14th I think at one point, upwards of fourth at some point. We got out, Okay, we knew we made it to Homestead. Phil, my crew chief, our guys and girls, we all kind of shook hands. Okay, cool.
Al comes up, big smile, hugs us all, thanks us all so much for getting us to Homestead. That kind of brought it back into us. Why stop now? Why don’t we go down there and do something? That got us smiling again, high?fiving. It brought it all into perspective.
- Does it feel like a whirlwind for you since last year, a rollercoaster?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Honestly, if you back up to November, the goal was to get to Homestead, win a championship. I think I just had the title down wrong for the series, I guess.
So, yeah, I don’t know. This is just what moves your career along, just performing on track, being able to perform…
I don’t know that the championship will affect my career. We know what I’m doing next year. I mean, Brett lost his ride last year with winning the championship. I probably helped him get his current ride. I don’t know if it will help or hurt. It won’t hurt, right, by any means.
I don’t know.
- (Question about persevering.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Probably the video from Iowa at tech, when I walked away with my hands on my hips. I have that saved, watched it too many times. When we don’t end up winning for whatever reason, I think about how good that race was we just ran. Daytona, I watched it on purpose. No, stay the course, everything is going to be fine. I don’t want to get too high, but I also don’t want to be that low.
I remember how bad that day was. It was terrible. You can’t see my face in the video, but I know what I felt right then. Just keep that stuff around to keep it all real.
- How much do you feel your experience at Homestead is going to help?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I know going out on scuffed tires is not going to hurt. I’ve ran on this track, rolled off pit road on scuffs way too many times. Bought my own stickers to put on the car. Paid for the tires just because I knew how bad scuffs would be.
No matter what, I’ll be smiling this weekend because our truck will have speed. We’ll be in the top 10. I think we were close to it at Phoenix not being. We’ll be top 10 speed. I know how good that is.
Anything beyond that… I don’t think anything I’ve done at Homestead in the past will hurt me. I’ve ran the fence, been slow doing it. Working on it. I don’t know that we’ll get up there. It dang sure won’t hurt.
- I remember a time when racing here for you was really cool. Now you’re racing for a championship. Are you totally focused on the championship or…
ROSS CHASTAIN: Every year of my career, Homestead is what set up my next year. It secured funding for me. Florida Watermelon Association, different watermelon farmers, different people in the industry. I always used this as the spark for the next year.
It was all effort. I’ve took a lot of sponsorship dollars and put them all on Homestead, Truck and Xfinity car, tried to go out and perform. We did in both. That’s what ultimately got the ride at Johnny Davis Motorsports in the 4 car.
I made it a point, I flew to Fort Myers yesterday, slept in my bed at home, got up this morning and drove the camper over so I could do all the things I normally do. Normally I drive to Fort Myers on Monday. I’ve flown there from Phoenix before, driven with a show car down to Fort Myers, done some appearances Monday and Tuesday, then drove over here.
I wanted to do the same thing I always do. I flew this time. I wanted to drive across State Road 80, down 27, do the same thing. It was good. It was a nice three and a half hour drive this morning to clear my head. Business as usual.
- That camper you took a picture of, are you staying in that?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, my girlfriend and I are.
- Hooked up?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Plugged in, got air?conditioning, water, everything. Yeah, you go in and you turn and there’s a door and there’s a bathroom. Most campers and buses, there’s a bedroom. There’s no bedroom. The bedroom is the living room. It’s small. Yeah, it’s cool.
I have a fifth?wheel, but just with logistics of this week I didn’t want to drive all the way down and take a whole day. I spent yesterday in Charlotte, in North Carolina, flew down. This one was available to borrow. I had a buddy that always said if I needed one, he would let me borrow his A class, the flat front end, big windshield. I thought it was a little different, I’m not going to lie.
- What did your girlfriend say?
ROSS CHASTAIN: She likes it. I don’t know, she rolls with the punches. She’s from Fort Myers. She doesn’t know much about racing. I love her for it. It’s cool because we just do our own thing. We’re different than most of these guys. Somebody has to be different. We can’t all be the same.
Yes, I know that camper is as far out as you can possibly get. We’re going to have fun with it.
- This will complete a year in terms of running so many races. Only Kyle Busch has run more races. What has this year been like? Nearly 80 races, are you tired?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yes, I’m tired. The best part about it is that if I had a bad race, I had another one in a couple days, I would forget about it. That was the good thing. Now the bad part was when we had a good race, I didn’t have any time to celebrate.
I don’t know what the future will hold on that. I don’t know if we’ll hit this many races for years to come. There’s a reason nobody does it. Kyle did it, and even he’s backed off. I know they have rules against it.
There’s a difference in doing it and competing for wins in every race, all three every weekend, and doing it and going and fighting LaJoie for 32nd in the Cup race, racing the crap out of him.
That’s the hardest point, is to reset after a Friday or Saturday, go into the Cup race and know realistic goals. We want a 25th?place finish, our goal. That’s going to be like a win.
Yeah, I’m tired. The adrenaline at 26 years old does wonders.
- Is there traction because you’re bouncing around so much, how beneficial is it?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I’m a big yes man. I say yes. If any NASCAR team owner calls me, stops me at the track and says, I want you to drive for me. I’m like, Of course. I’ve begged all these guys for years. Now that they say yes, I’m like, Of course, yes.
It’s tough. It’s a tough balance. I’ll find some middle ground I think one day on it. But the biggest thing is trying to add each building block, check all the boxes that it’s got all the tires it needs, you have the motors that you want, you can lease the motors that you want, you have the pit crew you want. Keep checking all those boxes, keep building.
I feel like a guy like me is not just going to get thrust into a winning Cup operation, so why not try to build one, build something around you that’s yours, you’ve been with it from the beginning.
Granted, it’s the Cup Series, the hardest level of our sport. It’s where the most dollars get spent and most people work across all forms of American motorsports, so…
- Any other travel issues other than the Watkins Glen?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Issues? You calling a Greyhound bus an issue? That was fun. I would recommend one Greyhound bus trip a year for everybody. Puts a lot of perspective into life. The buses are actually super comfortable. You watch the sun set and rise. It was something else.
- You have your deal for next year. This team was the little team that now has. Do you judge this season by whether you win a championship or have you had too much fun?
ROSS CHASTAIN: We’re just racers. We’re a bunch of misfits honestly. I was talking with my crew chief, Phil, Monday night about 9:00 when a couple of us were still there. We were talking about each person on the team. He was talking about the story, right? I only came in in 2011. I don’t know where a lot of guys and girls came in before that.
There’s a couple guys there that probably couldn’t get a job anywhere else. This is the only place. Again, that’s why I can drive for Al. We wear blue jeans. This is Car Shield blue, but his are blue jeans. Good, bad, indifferent, blue jeans, sometimes a sports coat. That’s why I get along with him so well. That’s me, Phil, Cody, all of us.
I won’t. Everybody else can think what they want. The guys and girls on their team can have their own opinions on it. What we’ve done this year, I mean, we came last year and ran 13th in a good truck we ran well with this year. I think we’ve won in it this year.
The improvement in the performance is what I’ll hang my hat on.
- Three of the four are using stuff from GMS. Is it good it’s going to come down to the drivers and teams?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It will be what Niece Motorsports does. It’s all us. Don’t care about them. Don’t care about anything there. It’s only about us.
I would honestly say it’s maybe two against two. Maybe two against one against one. Yeah, we get a little blank canvas, but we do the rest. Nothing there.
- You have your future set for next season. What would winning a championship this year do for your future?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I honestly don’t know. You see guys win championships and lose their rides. You see some guys win and that’s the last thing that you hear about them.
I don’t know. You’re only as good as your last race. You have to keep preparing. It’s not going to hurt. Honestly probably in my experience on the Cup side, a lot of team owners don’t really see the trucks, they don’t watch the races. Just my experience. When I talk about what I’ve done, they’re like, Oh, really? They say, Oh, well that’s trucks.
I don’t know. Honestly I don’t know how much it helps. Can’t hurt, but I don’t know. I think you have to keep proving and keep winning to make it all work.
- Even if you go back to watermelon farming for some reason, how cool would it be to have your name on a trophy?
ROSS CHASTAIN: That’s why we do it. I started in the fast truck kid class at 12 years old in 2005. They didn’t pay you. Maybe 2006. They couldn’t pay you because you’re a minor. You have this tiny little trophy. That’s all I wanted. Me and my dad, my brother Chad, my grandfather that helped, my uncle, my whole family. We wanted those trophies. For three years that’s all we raced for. We spent thousands of dollars. We have 20 trophies from it. That meant more to us than anything, than what the adult class was paying 750 or a thousand each night to win. It didn’t matter. Was all about the trophy.
The addictive side of racing for me, I think a lot of it starts with those trophies at the smallest level, go?karts. Whether it’s a ribbon or a plaque, that’s what drives us as competitors. It’s not the healthiest thing to have that addiction for trophies, but that’s what we have. I guess it’s a better addiction than other things.
I don’t mean to make it sound bad. I wanted that to come out right. That could come out really wrong. But I have an addiction, and it’s winning and trophies. That’s all I get up and think about, winning NASCAR races or growing the best watermelon crop, whatever it is.
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