HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Ross Chastain is in a position he couldn’t have imagined.
Chastain, a native of nearby Alva, Florida, returns home to Homestead-Miami Speedway with an opportunity to clinch a spot in the Championship 4.
“I have less nerves than I did a couple years ago when I came here for a Truck championship with Niece Motorsports in 2019,” Chastain said. “That was the first time that had ever happened. That was the first time I had ever been in the playoffs; made a run and we were here fighting for a championship. That definitely had a lot more nerves.”
Though a win gets him in, Chastian is in a pretty solid spot regardless. He enters the middle race of the Round of 8 second in points, 18 points above the cutline.
Last weekend, Chastain had the exact same opportunity and nearly capitalized. Joey Logano passed him in the closing laps to win at Las Vegas and clinch the first spot in the Championship 4, but that hasn’t discouraged the 29-year-old in his first season with TrackHouse Racing.
“Luckily, for me, I can compartmentalize,” Chastain said. “I had a conversation this week and what we were describing, me and this person, we were talking about their life. They felt like their life is one big box and everything was always intermingled and all the wires were connected. I was like I think mine is box, by box, by box. I open one box and all the other boxes automatically shut. That’s just how I’m wired.
“I think that’s what makes part of my racing ability, for better or worse, what it is. I’m not saying I’m full-blown goldfish, but about every lap, it feels like a new lap. When I come back around, I have a new expectation of what I can do and it doesn’t have a lot of bearing.”
Chastain started this season off strong with two wins in the first 10 races, but since then, he’s faced more adversity. Chastain has battled inconsistencies of late, and despite finishing 37th at the Charlotte ROVAL to wrap the Round of 12, his stockpile of Playoff points carried him into the semifinal round.
But, Chastain continues through the Playoffs knowing he might get “owed one.” Chastain had run-ins with Denny Hamlin this season at Gateway and Atlanta, with Hamlin hinting at potential payback.
Hamlin ran Chastain into the wall late at Pocono in July to get some revenge, but the feud may not be over. Chastain, though, isn’t overly worried.
“I feel like I am in a good spot in the garage,” Chastain said. “The summer was definitely tough, and I learned a lot from a lot of that and we will continue to learn and evolve throughout this sport and this series. It’s incredible to race against your heroes, but it’s kind of odd and humbling when your heroes get mad at you.
“It’s not always about the here and now. I had to stop living in the moment of each lap and definitely race with a mindset of a broader look across the whole season and see that the entire body of work will get me a lot farther than one pass and not caring about what happens.”
Chastain will start 20th in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami. The race is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. William Byron is the defending winner and has the pole.