With two wins and plenty of regular-season racing still to go, Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing are positioning themselves for a nice seed in the postseason. But like former Indianapolis Colts coach and viral sensation Jim Mora, the playoffs are not on the mind of Trackhouse co-owner Justin Marks.
“I don’t even think we begin to have those conversations,” said Marks. “We’re here today, and we were where we were at COTA and the races leading up to COTA just because we’ve got a process that works, and I think we just have to fundamentally stay committed to that process.
“When you start talking about playoff strategy and how you’re going to mount a run for the championship, that kind of mental bandwidth, I think, is reserved at this point for the teams that have been there a long time. That’s something that [Joe] Gibbs talks about. That’s something that [Rick] Hendrick and [Roger] Penske talk about.
“Trackhouse is so new that we can’t start thinking that way. We have to just focus on what we’re doing every week; just the execution of what we’re doing every week that’s putting us in that position. Obviously, we’re contending for wins week in and week out. We just have to commit to that. I don’t think there’s going to be any conversation about playoff strategy for the foreseeable future.”
Chastain and William Byron are the only two drivers in the series with multiple wins.
Chastain is ninth in the championship standings, and his two race wins come with 10 playoff points. A stage win at Las Vegas adds another point for a total of 11, which gives Chastain the second-most playoff points in the NASCAR Cup Series after 10 races.
Byron leads the series with 13 playoff points. Behind Byron and Chastain, no other driver has more than six.
Playoff points are like insurance to a driver. A decent amount of them can help their cause advancing through each round of the postseason and they carry over.
At the end of the regular season, the top 10 drivers in the point standings will also be awarded bonus points. And so, Chastain is sitting pretty to be a championship contender if he can keep up this pace and consistency.
“Things can change really quickly in this sport,” said Marks. “We have a lot of momentum right now, and everybody is doing a great job bringing fast race cars to the racetrack. But things can change quickly, right? Other teams, other manufacturers can find something really quickly.
“We’ve seen Tony Stewart do what he does through summer stretches and through playoffs, like a resurgence or momentum can sort of come from anywhere at any time.
“So, I’m being honest when I say ‘playoffs’ isn’t a word that’s uttered in our building at all. Because we still have to go to a lot of tracks with this race car that we’ve never been to before. We still have a lot to learn, and we’re committed to the process of learning this car and figuring out the right approach.
“I’m being totally honest with you – we don’t talk about that at all. Everything is just so new. We’re just trying to do a good job every day.”
This season is the first that Chastain will be a part of the playoffs.