Show me what you’ve got, Ross Chastain.
Chastain, the 25-year-old who has been competing in NASCAR since 2011, is getting what’s known in the sports and entertainment business as his “big break” this weekend at Darlington Raceway for Chip Ganassi Racing. A good thing is happening to a good person, some would say. Others might describe it as a well-deserved moment for a driver who works his tail off to shine in underfunded equipment.
Regardless, the legendary motorsports team owner who proclaims #ilikewinners on social media will undoubtedly be watching as closely as the rest of us as Chastain pilots his No. 42 in three Xfinity Series races.
Chastain is regularly complimented for getting the most out of his equipment. For the last four years, he has been doing that for JD Motorsports owner Johnny Davis. Taking the No. 4 team and driving up amongst the usual series contenders, Chastain has six top-10 finishes this year, one top five, and an excellent chance of making the playoffs – potentially ahead of Michael Annett, from JR Motorsports, which we know is a championship and race-winning organization.
And of the 37 career top-10 finishes that Davis has earned with his teams in 1,052 races, 12 have come from Chastain. Nine other drivers combined for the additional 25. Chastain also has 24 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts, most of which have come this season. In the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports, Chastain has an impressive five top-25 finishes including an 18th-place at Texas.
However, in a Ganassi car, Chastain can really stand out. CGR has top equipment in NASCAR, and certainly in the Xfinity Series, where the No. 42 car has won with Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick and Justin Marks.
Chastain is also following former JD Motorsports driver Ryan Preece, who got a shot with Joe Gibbs Racing. Preece turned his limited number of races into multiple wins, consistent top 10 runs and laps led.
Good guy Alex Bowman paid his dues at BK Racing and with Tommy Baldwin before becoming Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s substitute and now successor in the No. 88 car.
Aric Almirola is showing his worth at Stewart-Haas Racing after six years of floundering at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Hey, even Justin Allgaier is back on his feet. Allgaier left the Cup Series after two years with Harry Scott, and is now winning races and contending for championships with JR Motorsports.
The list goes on. However, there are still plenty of drivers who never had the chance that Chastain is getting. There are also plenty of drivers who were once in NASCAR and now gone, or those who are still competing who deserve the opportunity to show they are more than the cars they drive.
DiBenedetto also gets tagged as a hidden talent; someone who is overachieving with what he’s given. Go back to his time at BK Racing, when DiBenedetto drove his way to an improbable sixth-place finish at Bristol in 2016. DiBenedetto has also given Go Fas Racing its first three career top-10 finishes. Go Fas debuted back in 2012.
How cool would it be to see a top team put its belief in DiBenedetto and let him rip? DiBenedetto was once a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, but for one reason or another it never amounted to anything. J.D. Gibbs did recommend former BK Racing owner Ron Devine look at DiBenedetto and give him a shot. Having won in everything he’s driven on his way to NASCAR, there is no reason DiBenedetto couldn’t do it in the Cup Series if the car were capable.
Tommy Joe Martins
I don’t have a large sample size but hearing it a few times makes you take note: Martins has ‘it.’ So, even if he hasn’t shown it in top equipment, racing ace Ron Fellows believes it because he uses Martins as an instructor at his driving school. Martins loves racing so much that he invested being a Truck Series team owner before the money ran out, and now drives for BJ McLeod in the Xfinity Series, where he doesn’t get paid a whole lot.
Martins will tell you even if he doesn’t get the opportunity all drivers seek, he’s still going to compete for years to come. Maybe at some point, someone important will see the upsides that Martins has.
Brian Keselowski just needs a chance like the one his younger brother had. Unfortunately, unlike Brad, who has driven for the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rick Hendrick and now Roger Penske, for whom he’s won a championship, that hasn’t materialized for Brian. Make no mistake though, Brian is just as talented behind the wheel as he is working on cars.
In 2015, I covered Keselowski as he made his Truck Series debut at Talladega driving for Brad’s team. Afterward, Keselowski was naturally emotional, hoping he had shown someone what he could do by leading laps and being in position, third, for a fairytale ending when he ran out of gas on a green-white-checkered finish. Sadly, Keselowski hasn’t competed in a NASCAR race since, but is still involved in the sport as a part of Carl Long’s No. 40 Xfinity Series team.
Yes, Sorenson did drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in the first part of his Cup Series career, but I would argue CGR was not the team it is today. During Sorenson’s full-time tenure from 2006-08, none of the Ganassi drivers were impressing, and a dive into the numbers at would show all teams were on par with the others.
Sorenson isn’t a lost cause, though. The Ganassi Xfinity car performed far better than its Cup counterpart. Sorenson won twice between 2005-06, and finished fourth and 10th respectively in the points. Sorenson won again in the series in 2011 for Steve Turner en route to fifth in the championship.
Put him in a Premium Motorsports car, and Sorenson is now a backmarker in the Cup Series. Makes you wonder.
A blast from the relatively recent past who also had a NASCAR opportunity, but maybe not at the right time. Speed drove mostly for Red Bull Racing during his time here, and we can all admit that while the program had high aspirations and landed drivers like Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne, it was never really going to go anywhere.
There should be no argument that Speed – who, let’s also be honest, has a NASCAR name – is a talented son of a gun. If Speed were competing in any of the national series in 2018 with a good team as opposed to 2008 with Red Bull, the sky would be the limit.
So, get you some Ross Chastain. You’ll have plenty of folks rooting for you… and some even living vicariously through you.