ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 ONX HOMES / iFLY CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of the NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying session at Richmond Raceway. Press Conference Transcript:
ROSS, TELL US HOW YOUR WEEK HAS BEEN SINCE YOU GOT YOUR FIRST WIN.
“It’s been busy. Not enough sleep until yesterday. We tried to do as much as we could and take advantage of this opportunity. I don’t think we said ‘no’ to anybody. They claimed they did turn some stuff down, some requests. But it was a full couple of days. We fit a production day for the Moose Fraternity in there, a full day at the shop and a race at Millbridge to just keep learning dirt for Daniel (Suarez) and I. We both made the feature, which was the goal.
I slept in yesterday. Flew in and went straight to the hotel. I was in bed at three in the afternoon; woke up at about 9:00 p.m. and back to sleep at about 11:00 p.m. I feel a lot better this morning.”
I KNOW A LOT OF THOSE GUYS HAVE WON RACES BEFORE IN THEIR CAREERS, BUT IS THERE ANY DIFFERENT VIBE IN THE SHOP THIS WEEK COMPARED TO PAST WEEKS?
“Once we got to the shop – I did make it to the shop Monday. Our road crew, most of them came in Tuesday. For the people in the shop, there were smiles. But there have been smiles this year. You’ve probably heard some of us talk about it, but it is different. For the same building and most of the same employees, it’s different. This car gives us a lot of things to smile about and we’ve been fast.
Some of us though, it was our first win, and the people that have won before made sure to make it a point to give us some tips on how to remember it and to enjoy these little moments. We were there for the win breakfast and win lunch. I told Justin (Marks), that was probably the most awkward part for me. It’s what we’ve always worked for and now we’re celebrating it and I almost feel like I’m in an out-of-body experience. There were a lot of high-five’s. My hand is still sore; a lot of high-fives.”
YOU MENTIONED IT’S BEEN A BUSY WEEK. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS?
“The highlights have been talking to people back home. In Charlotte and Mooresville, there are a lot of people that have helped get me here that have been a part of this journey. But when you look at the people back home, they weren’t paid to do it. They had no real reason other than they liked racing or they were my family. Talking to them - hearing the stories of where they were at towards the end of the race, seeing a couple of videos of them reacting to the race – that’s when it really sunk in. That’s when it felt real.
I talked to a guy this morning on the way in that. He raced late models and he was the one that taught my dad and I how to adjust wedge and heights on a coil-over car. My dad knew bucket springs and knew a metric chassis; that’s what I started with. But when we went into late models, we didn’t know. We looked at hiring or paying for shocks and bump stops, but the cost seemed like a lot. So, we never did that. We just ran whatever coil-overs came on the car. I was talking to him and he was the one there a couple nights a week for years helping to scale it because we didn’t know how to make adjustments. We definitely never took the shocks apart the whole time we had them. Just talking to him – he’s retired from the sheriff’s department and does some part-time work now, and just loves racing. He helped us a lot, Rusty did. That’s been the coolest part though, talking to people back home.”
YOU SAID THIS WEEK THAT THE WIN WON’T CHANGE ANYTHING, AS FAR AS THE TEAM’S APPROACH AND THE WAY YOU’RE GOING TO GO ABOUT BUSINESS AND YOUR MINDSET. FOR YOU, HAS A WEIGHT BEEN LIFTED AT ALL? DOES IT FEEL LIKE A RELIEF TO SHOW PEOPLE WHAT YOU’VE BEEN FIGHTING TO ACHIEVE FOR SO LONG?
“I want to say no, but yes. I’m human so yeah – I’ve went to bed every night this week, some nights were in the morning, but it does. That’s what I was talking about with Justin (Marks) at the shop. We’re here and we’re eating as a company, and as a family, because we won. It’s hard to really realize that. I realize it, but the adrenaline had worn off by Tuesday or whenever we did it. Now, it’s like I’m here doing this, but it just felt odd. It was different. I had never done that.
We don’t do anything different. We rolled through tech just like everybody else yesterday. They were through tech in an hour and a half; passed on the first time, fifth car through. Off to machining wheels to get them ready for the weekend. I was busy sleeping at the hotel. That did change for me, I had never done that. I have never flown in and went straight to bed. But I needed to catch-up to be ready for this morning.”
ONE OF THE THINGS, AT LEAST FRON THE OUTSIDE IN THAT LOOKS LIKE IT FUELS YOU, IS KIND OF HAVING A CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER BECAUSE OF THE PATH UP. HOW DO YOU MANAGE OR HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT CHIP AS YOU MOVE TO ANOTHER LEVEL FROM TRYING TO WIN TO NOW A WINNER IN THIS SERIES?
“It might not seem like it with the finish last week, but I made a real effort going into 2021. I joked with my group that the only chip that I have is Chip Ganassi. I don’t want that old Ross. I want to Ross 3.0. I had already had 2.0 at that point and I need 3.0. I just want to be better. Yeah, it got me here and I’m proud of that, and I wouldn’t trade any of that. To stay here now, I’ve realized that I can’t be that way.
Of course then, our first Cup win comes the way it does with controversary. It’s not how I drew it up in my head, but I’ve made a real effort. It doesn’t show from the finish. I tried last year and it was really halfway through the year before I could really put it together. And then this year, through the off season, I tried to not have that chip. Now, that chip is gone and Chip Ganassi has stepped out of the sport. So, I don’t want any chips. No chips on the hauler (laughs).”
HAVE YOU RE-SHIFTED YOUR FOCUS AT ALL TO PLAYOFFS AND HOW DOES THE WIN CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF THE APPROACH NOW FOR THE REST OF THE REGULAR SEASON?
“It doesn’t. I was texting with Jeff Haden this week. I wanted to get him down to Concord before the season, but I dropped the ball and didn’t do it. I was like I want to get you before the Playoffs and he was like, ‘that’s wild that you’re talking about the Playoffs already’. Nothing else has changed, but I want to be mindful of that. What I’ve learned through Trucks and Xfinity is that – when I got there – a lot of times I would try to do more and I don’t want to do that again. I want to just do what got us there. It’s easy to sit here on April 2nd and say that. Doing that at the end of the season with 10 races to go is going to be a whole other level.
For me, probably the mental struggle will constantly come back and forth. For having a good grasp on it and then getting caught up on – ok, we need a stage point here to keep adding – when all we really need to do is go race. Fighting that will be tough; I’m not saying it won’t be. But really that mental struggle will be just as important as being a little bit physically stronger by the time we get there too.”
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE THAT GIVES YOU ANY SORTS OF CHALLENGES AND WHAT’S GOING TO BE KEY FOR YOU TOMORROW IN MAKING SURE YOU GUYS ARE CONTINUING THAT STREAK OF CONSISTENT QUALITY FINISHES?
“I mean the key is having all sticker tires. It wasn’t that long ago – probably 2016 or ’15, somewhere in there – that I was here in Johnny’s No. 4 car and we drove up into the top-10 on like an 80-something lap run. A caution came out with 15 to go and the only tires we had left were scuffs because we didn’t buy the full allotment. So, we just stayed out and just hung on for 15th place; when, with stickers, maybe we could have stayed in the top-10. I think at that point, we probably hadn’t done that before. It’s not lost on me that I’ve walked into Richmond (Raceway) before knowing how much tire falloff happens; knowing how slick the track is. I’ve got two sets of stickers – one for practice that we brought from home that are old, and one for qualifying that you have to qualify on stickers. And then, you start the race on those and after that, it's all scuffs. So, maybe one more set of stickers.
Those days are still in my head. How I had to drive and how I had to try and fight off guys when I had scuffs. That’s just the way you do it back there and that’s how you do it on those programs, and that’s how you stay around. Those days aren’t lost on me.”
AS THIS NEW CAR WAS GENERATED, I THINK WE ALL ASSUMED THERE WOULD BE THAT ONE TEAM THAT TOOK A BIG JUMP. YOURSELF AND DANIEL (SUAREZ) HAVE HAD GREAT RUNS, AS WELL. WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE OVER THE COURSE OF THIS SEASON TO KIND OF BE THAT TEAM THAT HAS MADE THAT JUMP?
“I’ve been grateful and I keep telling the boys and girls that at Trackhouse (Racing). Thank you for giving me fast cars because nobody’s car is comfortable to drive right now. We’re spinning out; I’ve wrecked. I’ve over-corrected. But as we’ve went through each race, they’ve made it tolerable. Just that extra little bit where I can start to hustle it. I have to keep reminding myself – come off of 100 percent because they are hard to drive. You see guys, we’re all spinning out and bottoming out. It’s been a grateful feeling for me that they’re giving me cars with speed. Our car at Auto Club was fast and I plugged it in the wall, head-on, off turn four. I can’t be doing that.”