Ross Chastain will start third in a Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy when the Xfinity Series playoffs begin Friday night at Richmond Raceway. But for the rest of the postseason, Chastain will be back in his regular ride for JD Motorsports, and if he is to have a legitimate shot at advancing through the rounds and contending for the title, the underdog No. 4 group likely needs some help.
Could that come in the form of Ganassi, in some way, shape or form?
During an appearance on the “NASCAR on NBC” podcast earlier this week, Chastain, the series’ most recent race winner, said there had been discussions on the topic. Asked by RACER on Friday to expand on those conversations, Chastain admitted that so far, it’s been nothing more than him trying to plant the seed.
“It’s more me like, ‘Hey guys, what can we do? What can we do?’” Chastain said. “So, obviously we want to run as good as we can with the 4 car. It’s been a big accomplishment, and all along we’ve said if we make the playoffs, before we knew any of this stuff was coming about with DC Solar and CGR, we said, we are going to relax and enjoy it when those first three weeks [come] and we’re in contention.
“[We’ll enjoy it] even throughout the rest because we locked into 12th in points (the lowest he can finish at the end of the season). It’s really going to be time to relax, not time off, but just breathe. All summer long we were scared to death that something would go wrong and take us out. So, there’s no plan. I just want to be a part of everything and make our program the best we can with the CGR with DC Solar side and on the Johnny Davis side.”
Chastain said his JD Motorsports team will show up to every race for the remainder of the season even though there are still “a lot” of open races for sponsorship. When the team does have support, it allows team owner Johnny Davis to put more into the car in a search for speed.
Speed is not an issue when Chastain is in Ganassi’s No. 42.
In his first race with the team in Darlington, Chastain put the car on the pole and won both stages with 90 laps led. A late-race accident with Kevin Harvick kept him from contending for the win. Last week Chastain qualified fifth, led 180 of 200 laps and scored his first career win.
Through it all, Chastain has still not met Chip Ganassi. While the two have had conversations and communication sent back and forth through team members, Chastain might not get the chance to meet Ganassi face-to-face until this weekend if Ganassi makes an appearance at the track.
“I’ve talked to him, and everything has been great,” said Chastain. “And everything that has been passed through the team to me and me back to him has been great. He did an interview on SiriusXM the other day, and I listened to it live, and by the end, the things he said about me were incredible. I didn’t expect him to be that excited and you could genuinely hear a level of excitement in his voice.”
Ganassi tweeted Darlington weekend that Chastain “helped himself to many future opportunities” after Harvick sharply criticized Chastain because of how he raced. Ganassi followed that up by saying the same thing during his radio interview earlier this week.
Richmond is the last scheduled race Chastain has with Ganassi. Justin Marks will drive the No. 42 next weekend at Charlotte and John Hunter Nemechek is slated to finish out the season in it.
Looking at Friday night’s race, Chastain said his attitude and approach has not changed now that he’s a winner.
“I thought it would, honestly,” Chastain said. “But I’ll tell you what, after first practice I was head down, dragging the ground like something bad happened because we were 15th and the car wasn’t driving very good. Fast forward to the second practice made quite a few changes, and it did drive better.
“Granted we’re still where we need to be, but where we are now we can race with them. A few more good adjustments we can have a shot to win.”