Coy Gibbs, son of NFL, NASCAR Hall of Famer, dies
AVONDALE, Ariz. — That Ross Chastain That he even has a chance to be the Cup champion on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway is, perhaps, more remarkable than if he won the title.
Instead, Chastain relied on the lessons of her family of watermelon farmers to rise from underfunded rides to the top of NASCAR’s premier series.
When Chastain shifted into fifth gear, drove his car into the wall and rocketed through the final two turns at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, in a desperate bid to make the title run, he was just following the edict of farm life. And the name of his family’s watermelon operation in Florida: JDI Farms. JDI stands for Just Do It.
“The thing is, you do it no matter what the job is,” Ross Chastain’s brother Chad told NBC Sports about the family’s motto and business name. “Just do it.
“One of our big things here in Florida is we’ll have these pop-up showers and they’ll drop two to three inches of rain an hour on you. You’ve got to get it (from the fields) right away. So you don’t have time to panic or panic and worry You just have to go do your job and get the water out of the field so you don’t lose your crop.
“I think growing up, doing that, being with our dad in the middle of the night when it’s raining and running tractors and talking on the phone…it’s something that definitely prepared us for the pressure of racing and life in general” .
There was no grand plan for Ross Chastain’s career. After success in the short track ranks, Chastain looked to move up to NASCAR. A deal was made to run a truck race at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2011.
“That was it,” he said of the career effort. “That was the plan.”
Chastain finished 10th. It led to a few more rides that season and a full-time effort in 2012 in that series. He moved to Brad Keselowski Racing team in the Truck Series in 2013 and ran 14 of the 22 races. The following season proved more difficult. Chastain only ran three truck races and seven Xfinity races.
But it was his performance at the end of Truck’s season that caught the attention of Xfinity Series owner Johnny Davis. Chastain started third and finished 11th.
Davis was looking for a driver for the 2015 Xfinity season, but there was a catch. The ride would be a start-and-park effort, meaning Chastain wouldn’t get to run many laps before tossing the car into the garage for lack of funding.
Davis let Chastain run in the 2015 season opener at Daytona, as speedway races give more teams a chance for a good result. Chastain finished ninth.
“We had a legitimate chance to win the race,” Davis told NBC Sports. “I said, I can’t start and park the kid like that. This kid’s got talent. We’ve got to help him showcase it.”
Chastain did not start or park any races that season. Daytona was the first of 142 races over five seasons with Davis. Chastain posted 13 top-10 finishes in that span. Not an impressive record, but the team was more of a mid-pack operation and the focus was on not wrecking cars. Still, Chastain showed skill. He also showed a level of determination.
What he didn’t show at a key moment was confidence.
In 2017, a sponsor came to Davis with some extra money for a race and decided to channel it into a Cup ride for Chastain with team owner Jay Robinson. The problem was that the race was at Dover, not the easiest track for drivers, let alone someone without Cup experience.
“I went to Ross and said this is what we’re going to do,” David said.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to get into a Cup car,” Chastain told him.
“Boy, you’re ready to get in a Cup car,” Davis said. “I’m not asking. I’m forcing you.”
Chastain remembers that moment vividly.
“I never thought I was ready for the Cup,” he said. “I’m glad they were tough on it. Because if I had been given my choice, I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have gone to Dover for my first Cup race. No way.”
“It’s scary,” Chastain said. “It is. It’s a cup race. It’s tough. You see the guys who do it. Put them on the highest pedestal that I have.
“I didn’t look (not) ready for it. That’s me. I don’t really know how to answer your question, other than that was my thinking and I still don’t think I was ready until I actually got into the race. Training and qualifying, I wasn’t ready. I went into the race, everything clicked.”
Chastain finished 20th.
His journey was just beginning.
In 2019, Chastain completed a weekend trip which included a Greyhound bus in its journey from one track to another.
He drove his caravan from Pocono to Watkins Glen for the next Xfinity race. But he had a midweek truck race at Eldora Speedway. He decided not to fly because of the cost of a commercial airline ticket and took a Greyhound bus from upstate New York to Columbus, Ohio.
His father picked him up from the bus station. After the truck race, they piled into a van and drove back while Chastain slept. The van had a plan a few miles from Watkins Glen, but Chastain made it to the track in time.
Chastain’s break came in 2018 when she was able to run three races for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity team. Chastain won in Las Vegas in his second start with the team.
He was set for 2019 with a full-time ride for Ganassi’s Xfinity team, but that changed a few days before Christmas. The FBI raided DC Solar’s headquarters and the CEO’s home. The company was to have sponsored Chastain in 2019.
No sponsor, Ganassi shut down the team on January 4, 2019. Chastain was suddenly without a car.
“From the night I found out the raid happened, which was a day and a half later, until January 2nd, in my head I was done racing in NASCAR,” Chastain said. “January. 2, I decided to try again.”
What did it mean he was done with racing?
“In my head, once that (ride) was gone, I never thought I’d get another chance like that and I wasn’t mentally prepared to come back and run worn tires (for underfunded teams),” he said. “Finally, I decided to come back and run flat tires.”
He brought Ganassi back but to the organization’s Cup team in 2021. When Justin Marks bought the Ganassi Cup operation that season, Chastain maintained.
In their first year together, Chastain and Trackhouse will compete for a Cup title Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).
“That’s wild,” Chastain said.
Just like his journey up to this point.
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