Alva’s Ross Chastain pulling NASCAR trifecta this weekend – The News-Press
Ever since he knew he’d race in his first NASCAR Cup Series race two weeks ago, Ross Chastain has been calling and reflecting.
Calling people who helped him reach this career milestone and thanking them and reflecting on his 6-year journey and the ups and downs along the way.
And there have been plenty like competing in his first NASCAR truck race at 18, just out of Riverdale High, and longtime pro driver Todd Bodine introducing him to people in the business.
Former Major League Baseball player Mike Greenwell, who also used to drive trucks, giving him tips.
Staying with 2018 NASCAR Hall-of-Fame inductee Ron Hornaday Jr. for six months rent free.
Losing his ride in 2014 and bouncing around from team to team.
Making a good enough impression on Johnny Davis, owner and general manager of JD Motorsports, to earn a sponsorship in 2015.
And now, hitting the trifecta.
Chastain’s busy weekend at Dover International Speedway in Delaware will start Friday night with the Bar Harbor 200 Camping World Truck Series race. Saturday will be the Onemain Financial 200 NASCAR Xfinity race and Sunday will be the AAA 400 Drive For Autism Monster Energy.
If he drives clean races – which is his reputation – and finishes all three, he’ll log 800 miles.
“It’s yet to be seen how he’ll do in all three races,” Davis said. “But he’s in good shape. I think he’ll be fine.”
Greenwell, who raced in two NASCAR truck races as well as late models, is good friends with Chastain’s father Ralph and took Ross on a 21-day trip with his sons 15 years ago.
“This doesn’t surprise me at all,” Greenwell said. “This kid was beating adults as a young teenager. When he was 18, I told his dad he’s gotta go to North Carolina. He’s got some of the best talent I’ve ever seen.”
Greenwell said when a NASCAR official called him for a recommendation, he told them he’s not a rich kid coming into racing.
“I said this is a kid NASCAR will be proud of,” he said. “I think he’s got all the talent in the world. (Racing analyst) Michael Waltrip says a lot of great things about him. If he gets a big-time sponsorship, he’ll win races.”
Greenwell advised Chastain to make himself seen around the track and talk to people.
“Nothing is better than to run in all three events,” Greenwell said. “Sometimes, Cup owners are in their own world.”
Chastain, who took business courses at FGCU, said college couldn’t prepare him for the experiences he went through. Since 2011, he has 14 top-10 finishes in truck races and has placed in the top 10 in five Xfinity races. And now he’s preparing for his first Cup race.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, he’s teamed with Delaware Office of Highway Safety and attended pre-race events that promote people wearing their safety belts called “Protect Your Melon.”
Part of an eight-generation family that has grown watermelons, Chastain has been sponsored by the Florida Watermelon Association and Melon 1 over the years.
“This is a marketing program we created 6 years ago,” Chastain said. “We could never put it together with the right company or race car until we happened to meet up with Office of Highway Safety in Delaware.”
Chastain’s focus on on-track safety paid off big time.
While “he seemed to be fast”, according to Davis, he also noticed, “he didn’t seem to wreck” while he watched him at Homestead in 2014.
“I raced against both of Johnny’s cars, and we never crashed,” Chastain said.
A few weeks after the racing season ended, Davis got his number and called him.
“Ross has matured a lot,” Davis said. “He takes care of the equipment and drives the cars to their max.
“We don’t have the dollars to win every week but he gets the capabilities out of what we offer him. He has honed his talent over the past three years and is coming into his own. He does a great job, and he’s just a great kid. We’re both family-oriented so everything goes well. One day, he’ll get recognized and then either somebody will pick him up or we’ll continue to grow together.”
Chastain will work with three different teams in three different races this weekend. He admits he’s juggling a lot but said he’s been receiving a lot of help from brother Chad, an aspiring driver himself, as well as parents Susan and Ralph.
“And I have an army of golf carts to run me where I need to go,” he said.
Chastain doesn’t see Sunday’s race as an audition.
“I want to finish my Cup race and be competitive,” he said. “I want to run all the laps, learn from those and protect myself.
“Nothing is planned for another Cup race but three weeks ago, this wasn’t planned. We’ll take it as it comes. We won’t push anything too crazy. We just want to make sure it’s the right move.”
Like his dad, Ross Chastain started hobby racing.
“I never had any intention of doing anything like this,” he said. “But I wanted to keep pushing.”
Now, here he is.
Alva’s Ross Chastain has a busy week as he’s competing in all three NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Here is his schedule.
9:30 a.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series practice
10:30 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice
1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series final practice
5:30 p.m.: Bar Harbor 200 world truck series race
9 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice
11:30 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice
1 p.m.: Onemain Financial 200 NASCAR Xfinity race
1 p.m.: AAA 400 Drive For Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series race