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Ross Chastain Vies for First NASCAR All-Star Race Win

Ross Chastain has put the No. 1 car back in its rightful place. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Ross Chastain has put the No. 1 car back in its rightful place. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Five years following his maiden NASCAR Cup Series start at Dover Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain has become a genuine superstar racer.

It’s only fitting that the 29-year-old Alva, Florida native is among one of at least 23 drivers and teams vying for the NASCAR All-Star Race win tonight at Texas Motor Speedway. However, the road to this event and the premier division wasn’t clear and cut for “The Watermelon Man.”

In 2017, Chastain was a competitive, scrappy driver focused on making a name for himself in the NASCAR Xfinity series with JD Motorsports. Placing 15th, 16th and 13th in his first three championship season efforts, the Floridian had a make or break year in 2018.

Gaining the attention of legendary motorsports car owner, Chip Ganassi, the everyman Chastain showcased his true talents in top equipment with his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Considering the uncertainty with his Ganassi opportunity in 2019, the young racer kept his head up, continuing to showcase his worth even when he moved to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and nearly winning the title despite electing for points in the ninth race of the season, coincidentally at Texas Motor Speedway.

“There were some days there where I didn’t know,” he said following his win at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. “Turns out Justin (Marks) pretty much knew all along. When the sale happened, I texted him. I was at a wheel force test with Chevy and said I want this, and he said I know. Give me some time. To me that time should have been five minutes. I was, like, OK, just respond and say you got the job, but took some days and weeks.

“We were talking and figuring it out, and this is big business. This is big business racing, and this is a huge industry. You don’t just get the ride because you want it. I get that. But I don’t know how I could have ever scripted my career and the people that I met along the way, the people that I hurt along the way, the people that I wronged along the way, but it’s all got me here one way or the other.”

It hasn't always been easy for Chastain, but he's always kept a positive mindset with his racing efforts. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

It hasn’t always been easy for Chastain, but he’s always kept a positive mindset with his racing efforts. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Following a terrific season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020, Chastain compiled a respectable effort in his first, full-time Cup season last year, placing 20th with three top fives and eight top 10 finishes.

Last August, Chastain was tabbed as the driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevy efforts, the sister team to the No. 99 of Daniel Suárez. By all means, the mild mannered driver has taken the series by storm with seven top fives and eight top 10 finishes.

More importantly, he tallied his first two Cup points paying race wins at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and Talladega Superspeedway. In a way, it’s a full circle moment for a driver who’s excelling in a series with a schedule predominantly filled by ovals.

“It a great feeling to be locked in to the All-Star Race,” Chastain said in a team press release. “To think back several years ago, at a road course, I was asking Justin (Marks) questions when he was driving the No. 42 Xfinity car.”

Chastain considered how he approached team founder, Justin Marks, for some input on road courses, a type of track that he earned his debut Cup win.

“How do I brake, turn right into a blind corner, down shift twice and get off of that corner and it wasn’t an easy answer for him,” he recalled. “It took years of going over it with him and now to have wins with him as the owner is so cool.”

From buying car seats from the Marks to sitting in Marks' No. 1 car, Chastain's career is a full circle. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

From buying car seats from the Marks to sitting in Marks’ No. 1 car, Chastain’s career is a full circle. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Placing 18th in last year’s race, it’s safe to say that Chastain and crew chief, Phil Surgen, are ready to duke it out with the best of the Cup Series around the 1.5-mile paved track. The duo have been savvy, tenacious and racing with the approach of a champion’s heart.

Now, Chastain, who’s bolstered Marks’ Cup operation by leaps and bounds along with his teammate, Suárez, he may have a unique way to repay his boss, particularly with the big $1 million prize up for grabs.

“I remember I paid his wife Erin for race seats. I went to their house and Justin was gone and I paid her cash for two seats because I didn’t have the NASCAR certified seats and Justin did.”

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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