Through the Paddock: Ross Chastain talks Darlington, goals and blessings

Barry Cantrell/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Each week in Through the Paddock, Aaron Bearden takes the time to spotlight a member of the racing community in an effort for both himself and the fans to learn more about them. Interviewees can range from drivers to crew members, media representatives and more. 

The audio version of this piece can be found here.

Take a look at the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings in each of the past three seasons, and one of the first drivers to come from a team unaffiliated with a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organization will be Alva, Florida’s Ross Chastain.

Chastain, 24, is in the midst of his third full-time season in the No. 4 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports, and is enjoying arguably the best year of his young career. He sits 13th in the XFINITY Series standings – outside of the playoff grid, but two positions better than the career-best 15th he managed in 2015 – after a summer that saw Chastain score his first top in NASCAR’s second series at Iowa Speedway.

Aside from XFINITY Series success, Chastain has tallied seven starts with two top 10s in the Camping World Truck Series. He also made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut earlier this year at Dover International Speedway, impressing many with a 20th-place run for the underfunded Premium Motorsports.

Kickin’ the Tires got the opportunity to speak with Chastain on the pre-race grid at Darlington Raceway, where the seven-year NASCAR veteran talked about his goals and expectations JD Motorsports, and how a chance call from team owner Johnny Davis altered his career for the better.

It’s beautiful out here, we’re on the pre-race grid at Darlington Raceway. What does it mean to you to be able to run at this track?

Ross Chastain: I really don’t know how to put it into words, man. It’s a dream true, for a dream that I never even thought would be a real one. It’s really surreal to be out here, now in our third year here in the (No.) 4 car with JD Motorsports and Gary Keller.

Just an honor to drive the car for them. They’ve stuck with me through some bad times, and we’re here with some good times throughout the summer months. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ross Chastain earned a career-best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway. 
World Copyright: Brett Moist

You’ve been around for quite a while now, and you’ve had quite the journey. How did you end up in this (No.) 4 car with JD Motorsports?

Johnny (Davis, JD Motorsports owner) gave me a call over the winter after the 2014 season and asked if I would come down to Gaffney (South Carolina, where the team is based) and talk to him about driving his (No.) 4 car full-time. “Yeah! For sure.”

I didn’t have any other offers out for anything really, except a few races here and there.

You know, I had some people tell me I was making a mistake, but I believe in Johnny and he believed in me. We’ve turned this (No.) 4 car into the flagship car for Gaffney. It’s really cool to be the guy that helped get it turned around. There’s a lot of other people in the background – all the crew guys and stuff – but to be the face of it and get to relish in the spoils of the good times is good.

Running with JD Motorsports, in any given weekend what are your expectations? What do you expect from each year? 

It’s changed each year. It’s hard to say, man. I mean, we’re sitting here. We qualified 16th right behind a (Joe Gibbs Racing) car, a (JR Motorsports) and a (GMS Racing) car.

We’re in really good company. Not that we’re going to race up here all day. But by the end of the race I think we could be back here. We could finish 15th if everything went right.

We have realistic goals. We’re not out here thinking we’re going to beat Denny Hamlin or nothing. But we have our goals. We know what’s a success for us and what’s not, and we kind of live and die by that code.

We’ve seen you in the XFINITY Series, the Camping World Truck Series for a few races and even a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. How would you say your year has been?

Ross Chastain made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at Dover International Speedway, finishing 20th.
(Photo: John K Harrelson/NKP)

It’s been the best year of my career by far, both on the track, obviously with the finishes, but off the track I’ve came so far. I feel blessed. Some people laugh at it, but the good Lord has given me a lot, and I’m thankful for that.

To get to be racing full-time, and even hopping in a few other people’s race cars – trucks, Cup cars – has been a dream come true. I wake up every day and just focus on how to go fast in a race car for whoever will let me do it. That in itself is a dream.

Looking forward, you’re moving into the latter half of the year. You might not make the playoffs, but are still having a good year. What are your expectations for the rest of the year, and what do you expect beyond this year?

We started off the year hit-or-miss. I was really too over-aggressive and cut a few tires rubbing with other people. We got into this summer stretch and just knocked out finishes, ran our own race.

We’re going to have something go wrong, don’t get me wrong. We all know that. It’s coming. It’s going to happen.

But we’re just going to keep rolling with it until that does happen. We’re bringing good enough race cars to the race track, and we’re ahead of some of the guy we used to race with. It’s just one of those deals.

I really am happy with how everybody is doing. Our cars are put together well. Preparation at the shop is key, and all of that hard work’s paid off.

For fun: Why should interested fans root for you? What makes you stand above everyone else out here?

Because I give out free watermelon at the race track. What more reason do you need than to get some watermelon?

It’s hot out here! I could use some of that.

Yeah, for sure.

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