Imagine you’re Ross Chastain in 2019. Has any driver in recent memory had the up-and-down journey the watermelon farmer from Alva, Fla., has this year.
Let’s break it down:
- Chastain is tabbed to drive the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Xfinity Series car with DC Solar on the hood. It’s a car he won in a year ago in a limited role and qualified for the Xfinity Series playoffs.
- On the heels of a federal raid, DC Solar leaves NASCAR, leading the elimination of the No. 42 team from the Ganassi stable. Chastain returns to JD Motorsports (his primary 2018 car), and vows to run in all three major series.
- In early May, Chastain races his No. 45 Niece Motorsports truck into Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway, the first Gander Trucks win for both he and his owner, Al Niece. The win doesn’t qualify Chastain for the playoffs though, because he declared points in the Xfinity Series.
- A month later, just three days before the SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway, Chastain announces he’s ditching his Xfinity Series points and chasing a Gander Trucks championship with Niece Motorsports. He starts from zero since his win and other appearances came before he was earning Gander Trucks points.
- Chastain finds Victory Lane again, this time at Iowa Speedway, in just his second race since declaring points in the truck. Chastain’s truck fails post-race inspection, and under 2019 NASCAR rules, he forfeits the win and the potential playoff spot.
- A week later, at Worldwide Technology Raceway, Chastain took fuel-only on his final pit stop and was never caught. The No. 45 was back in Victory Lane again, and this time it was for real. He took the $50,000 bonus for winning the final leg of the Triple Truck Challenge as well.
- Chastain has five races left in the Gander Trucks regular season to make the top 20 in points, the second prerequisite for making the playoffs. He’s currently 26th, 44 points out of the top 20.
Add on top of all that he’s been running in all three NASCAR series the entire season, even traveling the country to do so. He ran the SpeedyCash.com 400 Friday night June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway, then competing in the Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series the following two days at Michigan. This week he followed up the win in Madison, Ill. with a trip to Sonoma Raceway to get back in the Cup car.
He said it best, describing both 2019 and the 26-year-old’s entire career so far.
“I love the position I’m in,” he told SiriusXM NASCAR. “I like having my back against the wall.”
With the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series feeling pretty wide open this year, the frontrunners would be smart to keep a close eye on Chastain. And his PR rep might want to keep the watermelons ready. He might need a few more delivered to Victory Lane before the season’s over.