ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 COCA-COLA CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Press Conference Transcript:
IN YOUR ESTEEMED OPINION, HOW MUCH OF THE SUCCESS OF THIS TEAM WHICH HAPPENED RELATIVELY QUICK CAN BE TIED TO THE FACT THAT JUSTIN (MARKS) WAS A DRIVER?
“That’s a good questions Mike. I don’t know. I mean he definitely just on a day to day and just in his thoughts, he understands the importance of crew chiefs and engineers and race cars and making them go fast. I don’t know many drivers that can truly put aside their confidence or their ego and go hire people smarter than them. Usually, drivers are the alpha. Everybody kind of tailors to us, right? Just for the No. 1 team, everything kind of revolves around what my feedback is in the car and my schedule aside from getting on track. It’s important, but it’s also important that Justin Marks is who he is. I used to tell him in the Xfinity Series that he was way too nice to race because he wasn’t mean enough. It’s important, but it’s important that it’s Justin Marks. Not every driver should be an owner. They would probably fail.”
WITH JUSTIN MARKS HAVING BEEN A DRIVER, I HAVE HEARD WHERE YOU KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE THE TEAM THERE, THEY CAME IN AND SAID THAT YOU HAVE TO BE ON BOARD WITH THIS CAR AND IF YOU ARE NOT THEN YOU CAN LEAVE. BECAUSE OF HIS KNOWLEDGE AS A DRIVER, DID THAT HELP WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR?
“I mean it helped with him hiring the right people to run this Next Gen car. It helped that he kept Tony Lunders in his role at the shop. He kept Darian Grubb. He kept the right people at a high level of Trackhouse. We had a lot of the foundation, a lot of the building blocks already there from CGR. I think the key for him was he’s been there as a driver now he is looking at it from he had 150 maybe people, I don’t know what the number was. When we got done at Phoenix, we were all looking at him like what do we do, because he was a driver I think that definitely played into it. His business savviness, his childhood growing up moving out west pretty early on to California and watching his dad grow businesses and live in that environment, he wasn’t always a racing kid. His dad was not a racer. Justin was the first one to go racing. I think that had as much to do with making the right decisions leading up to the end of last season in his head and then starting the Monday after Phoenix putting into action what he wanted to do and how he wanted Trackhouse to be structured. Choosing the right people at a high level, to then allow them and let them go out and make their decisions for who the engineering group is going to be and who is going to run the engineering group. Are we going to keep the pit crew department? Are we going to keep Ross? Are we going to keep the drivers, right? How are we going to do this allowing those bosses throughout the company, because you are only as strong as your weakest link? It’s just like a chain. You’re only as strong as the weakest one. Having a strong group and a strong chain is as important as having good luck on the track, because the harder we work and the smarter people we have around us the luckier we tend to get.”
I’M CURIOUS FROM YOUR PRESEPECTIVE THE REACTION YOU’RE GETTING AND YOU HAVE SAID YOU’VE NOT CHANGED, BUT JUST HOW PEOPLE ARE VIEWING YOU NOW DO YOU GET A SENSE OF HOW THAT’S EVOLVED AND MAYBE A LITTLE BIT MORE BEING UNDER THE MICROSCOPE WITH THE MORE SUCCESS THAT YOU HAVE?
“Yeah. I learned a long time ago to take people’s opinions for what they are. They are just opinions. I used to really let it bother me, but I am trying to be better. I’m trying to focus and the way I have been able to mentally move the needle for myself is getting to neutral. That is a Trevor Moawad way of thinking. I just started his second book, his final book that he wrote before he passed unfortunately, and that’s been the best way that I can go to sleep and wake up every day knowing that I am trying to better. Now, on track there’s been some instances where I am still making those mistakes that I made five years ago, but I am human. I’m going to make those mistakes. So, yeah people are going to say what they are going to say. They’re going to write what they are going to write, right? I’m fine to be whatever they want to write about. I know that I’m trying to do better and the people around me are trying to help me be better. That’s all I can really do.”
JUST A FOLLOW UP, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT MAKING MISTAKES, OBVIOUSLY A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE NOW TALKING ABOUT THE LAST LAP OF MONDAY’S RACE. DOES THAT, I DON’T WANT TO PUT WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH, WAS THAT A MISTAKE OR IS THAT NOT SOMETHING. I WANT TO BE CLEAR WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT MISTAKES, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU LOOK BACK WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT ON TRACK INCIDENT? OR WAS THAT JUST A RACING INCIDENT ON THE LAST LAP AT DOVER?
“I’d say more the mistake was 30 laps before that, not just letting him go and hoping he got by Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) and then I’d get by Ricky too. That’s more what I mean. I mean the last lap is the last lap. We are coming back around to the checkered, I’m going to race him as hard as I possibly can and try not to crash. I trust him and hope that he’d trust me. It was like 50 laps before that or the beginning of that last run when he first got to me probably, looking back at it, let him go then and then try to get by Ricky and still finish third. But, I didn’t.”
DID YOU AND MARTIN TRUEX JR EVER DECIDE ON A PLACE TO GO HUNTING OR FISHING?
“The minnow pond here man. NASCAR tweeted it already. They had a picture of us (laughing)."
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW THE PAINT SCHEMES FOR THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, so cool. I mean, it’s Coca-Cola. It’s an iconic brand, something that we’ve all, I think, had at least a sip of in our life. It’s something everybody has tried. It’s just so cool. As a kid I knew the Coke drivers and to have a throwback to something as iconic as the Earnhardt’s first time race together, Dale Jr. has helped me so much. He’s been there for me when I needed advice. He’s been there to tell me I messed up. We were neighbors, so it was easier then to see him and to ask him stuff and swerve at him on the roads. To have the polar bears, it’s just an iconic piece of history that I remember growing up and watching the sports seeing. I think for a lot of people it will bring back a lot of good memories. Let’s remember, they were arguing after that race like father and son. It wasn’t all happy go lucky NASCAR racing and they were clear across the ocean. For me, it’s knowing him that’s extra special, but like how iconic Coca-Cola is and driving a Coca-Cola car and getting to sit up here with a Coke, there’s a very select few number of drivers in the history of the sport that have gotten to represent that brand. For me, it just blows me away that I am able to do that this weekend.”
YOU HAD YOUR STRUGGLES HERE AT THIS TRACK BEFORE, I THINK YOU FINISHED THIRD LAST LABOR DAY HERE. DOES THAT GIVE YOU SOME CONFIDENCE THAT BETTER RUNS ARE AHEAD AT THIS PLACE? HOW DO YOU THINK NEXT GEN WILL DEAL WITH AN OLD SCHOOL TRACK LIKE DARLINGTON?
“It has kept me up this week thinking about that, because I mean this Gen 7 car the Cup car right now is just so volatile to drive. Especially the first few laps of practice. I don’t expect Darlington to be easy. I am fully prepared and fully expecting to truly be driving at a pace that I can make laps. I’m not going to set the track record. Cutting across the apron, entering in Turn 3 and getting loose or getting loose up the hill in 1 and down the hill in the new patch in two, this place is intimidating for me. I will roll out in practice; I mean I rolled out in the truck just now in the No. 41 Worldwide Express truck fully committed as fast as I could go and that is not the case for the Cup car. I will be at a reduced pace, and I will work up to it. Now, part of that is from my crash at California. I’ve realized I can build throughout the weekend and still compete. I don’t have to be fastest in practice. I look forward to the day that I am fastest in practice and driving at a reduced rate, because that is going to be really good for us.”
AS FAR AS THE CAR GOES, HERE AT DARLINGTON THE TALK IS THIS BODY IS FAR MORE FORGIVING SO THE DARLINGTON STRIPE IS THERE. ALSO, THE TALK IS SOME OF THE SUSPENSION PIECES ARE A LITTLE BIT SENSITIVE. ARE YOU CONSCIOUS OF THAT? WHAT’S YOUR EXPECTATION AS TO DARLINGTON STRIPES AND HOW DOES THAT PLAY OUT IN YOUR MIND AS WE ROLL THROUGH THIS WEEKEND?
“For me, over the course of the weekend the truck is more sensitive body wise. It’s a metal body. The right rear tail hangs way out to the right, so any real contact is just a day ender in the Truck Series, in my opinion. The Cup car, I feel like I have a larger window to touch the wall. Like you said the suspension parts are just, they’re rigid. When they bend and with this rear suspension it doesn’t move like with the truck arms and the track bars in the old car and Xfinity and Trucks. When you hit, it had room to move, and it would go back to its original spot. The independent rear suspension just doesn’t work like that. I don’t want a Darlington stripe in any car, let alone the new car.”
FOR MOST OF NASCAR HISTORY THE IDEA THAT A DRIVER COULD BE HELPED BY A SELF HELP KIND OF BOOK WOULDN’T EVEN BE IN THE LANDSCAPE. OBVIOUSLY, IT’S BEEN POSITIVE FOR YOU. HAVE YOU SHARED THAT WITH OTHER PEOPLE OR WHAT’S BEEN THE RESPONSE TO THAT FOR YOU?
“I have. I’ve talked about it openly. Even for me, it was scary initially to talk about. I realize through it that Trevor’s (inaudible) the later years of his life was to help people. He helped football programs across the country and pro athletes, but these books were to help the common person which is where I am. Members of my family ordered it and actually the latest one Getting to Neutral, Patrick my tire guy and his girlfriend got it for me. They gave it to me as a gift just recently because I hadn’t ordered it yet. I’ll talk about it with anybody, and I think if you just do a quick Google search and see kind of what he has done and what people say about him and read some of the first couple pages of the book. You can listen to it on audio. That’s how I did it the first time. I was like oh let me listen to this thing and take the easy way. Then I was like oh I need to read these words and try to get them to stick. That was a year and a half ago or early last year I guess. It’s not easy to talk about when you struggle with stuff mentally because if anybody tells me that they struggle with something mentally, I truly can’t comprehend what they mean unless I struggle with the same thing. As humans, and sometimes I don’t understand my own brain let alone yours Mike. It’s just something that has helped me and if it helps somebody else great, and if it doesn’t there’s other stuff out there if you think that you need the help. It’s just controlling some of the split second, in the moment, heat of the action decisions, this is something that has helped me.”
DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR NUMBERS? DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR FINISHES THIS YEAR AND JUST TAKE IN THE FACT THAT…
SO SINCE VEGAS, IF YOU TAKE OUT RICHMOND AND BRISTOL, YOU HAVEN’T BEEN OUTSIDE THE TOP-FIVE.
“That’s wild. (laughing) That’s wild. I look at it and can’t believe it."
GIVEN THAT, WHEN YOU GO TO THESE RACES WEEK AFTER WEEK, OBVIOUSLY YOU’VE SPOKEN BEFORE YOUR CONFIDENCE IS HIGH, EVERYTHING IS WORKING AT TRACKHOUSE. BUT, FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO THESE RACES DO YOU EVEN WORRY ABOUT WHAT RACETRACK YOU’RE GOING TO IN THE SENSE OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE IN THE PAST? OR DOES IT NOT APPLY ANYMORE GIVEN NEW TEAM, NEW CAR, JUST DON’T GET IN YOUR HEAD ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE BEFORE AT THAT RACETRACK?
“I may be a little, this may sound a little odd, but I don’t think that there is a more nervous driver driving from Charlotte to Darlington today than me. I am nervous to drive on the track tomorrow in the car because I know how out of control they are. I know how quick they are to wreck. I know what the penalty is if we do wreck, trying to get another car ready. I really believe that I will roll out there in practice and be at a very reduced rate in my percentage of close to 100, may be everybody’s different, but for my scale I will be scaled down x amount. X percent. I am fully prepping and grinding just like I was coming here in Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports car for my first Cup races. I just remember coming here he was like we are going to have sticker tires all night and then I bumped the wall in 3 and 4 and then again on the frontstretch. After the race, we didn’t have to pit it just crinkled the fenders in a little bit, he was like you tore up the right side of my car. I was like it’s the Southern 500, it was so hard to run 500-miles here and keep it straight let alone just touch the wall a little bit. All that comes back, those memories of the 4 car here and then getting the first shot in the 42. As well as I feel like we’ve ran, the stats won’t show it if you look at different cars. When we’ve had opportunities to compete in fully funded programs, I feel like we’ve done well, and I don’t think there’s a more nervous driver pulling into the track today.”
“No. It’s every week. It’s every week after California, after Auto Club. Going into Daytona and Auto Club I was probably one of the more confident drivers. Then I quickly got humbled.”