Ross Chastain is ready to get back to racing, allowing the turmoil of the off-season to continue to fade away.
The sudden January closure of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Xfinity team following an FBI raid on the program’s primary sponsor DC Solar briefly left Chastain without a ride. So after the holidays, when family time was over, he arrived back in Charlotte and spent a day visiting shops including Ganassi and JD Motorsports as he figured out the future.
“The biggest thing is, I’m the public side, and yes, I won’t be driving the race car I thought I was going to be, but there was thousands of people affected by what happened and their livelihood got turned upside down,” Chastain said.
“When I can’t sleep at night, it’s because of that because I met a lot of those people along the way that were in that industry that are now having to find other jobs. And on the racing side, guys who have to find new jobs in the racing world. Get off the road, stay in the shop. However, it affected all of us.
“I’m a race car driver, this is an easy lifestyle to live. It’s an easy job to do outside of the car. It’s business. It’s emails, conference calls with people, it’s having relationships. But I can stay busy, and I can rebound easily. It’s the guys that were working for the company who have to start over and no rhyme or reason why. None of us have any details. It sucks. There’s no way around it.”
In November the 26-year-old Chastain was given the keys to the No. 42 CGR Chevrolet. He was slated for a full season in the Xfinity Series, a reward for having scratched and clawed his way to the attention of prominent team owners and partners. DC Solar owners Jeff and Paulette Carpoff showered Chastain with public support and sponsorship before a December raid of their home and offices changed everything.
Ganassi shuttered the program. Chastain lost one of the best rides in the Xfinity Series. And DC Solar has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“There were some dark days between when it happened and Christmas, but Christmas came, and that was the greatest thing that could have happened,” Chastain said. “I do believe there is a bigger plan. My faith is stronger than ever. I’m not a real public guy about it, but my family was there for me, my team in Charlotte, the Spire group. CGR has been great. Chip calls, and we’re going to build back to where we were. We’re going to get back there.
“That’s what keeps me going. … Yeah, we all are still reeling from it. There’s no way around it. It was a total 180 of where we thought we’d be, but turn around and push forward and be the best we can be.”
Chastain is in Daytona because his push-forward mentality paid off. Daytona is the first of a three-race deal in the No. 10 Chevrolet with Kaulig Racing. He’ll also run at Chicago this summer and in the fall Texas race. For the other 30 races, Chastain will be back in his No. 4 at JD Motorsports.
Since the events of December, Chastain has not heard from the Carpoffs. However, he knows they have things to deal with, and still spoke fondly of them.
“I’m here when they want it, so I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” said Chastain. “Love them. I know they love me. They did a lot for me, changed my life honestly.
“Being a NASCAR winner will have forever given me a level of confidence that I wouldn’t have had before because I had accepted the fact that I’d probably never win in NASCAR. [Carpoff] changed that with Paulette. Hate it. Don’t know what’s going on, but I know I need to keep moving forward and be the best race car driver I can be, because that’s my livelihood.”