ROSS, LAST YEAR YOU RACED YOUR WAY INTO THE ALL-STAR RACE THROUGH THE ALL-STAR OPEN. THIS YEAR, YOU ARE LOCKED IN WITH TWO WINS ALREADY THIS SEASON. HOW’S THAT FEEL?
“It feels great. It’s a lot of FOMO when you are not in it, so you just feel like you’re in the Cup Series you need to be in it with teams like I drive for. Yeah, last year was a lot of pressure and I thought it would be easier, but it’s been no different. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, and we put a lot of pressure on us as a team to keep performing the way we’ve been this year.”
THE QUESTION PROBABLY EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW, HOW ARE YOU FEELING AND TELL US ABOUT YESTERDAY AFTER THE TRUCK RACE?
“I feel good. Odd deal. Looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong and why that happened with our AMR staff and our medical staff that travels with us. They know me, they see me every week. Even whenever I don’t see them, they are walking through the garage and watching us. They see us after crashes when we go to the care center, so as soon as we walked in Kevin’s like yeah man you are dehydrated. We were talking and then last night I got to thinking about my week and I think I just got lazy. I just didn’t hydrate enough. I was fine in the truck; I mean it was hot. It was a hot race, and I went to get out and I went to step out of the truck on the floorboard and my left calf locked up, like it cramped, and then my left hamstring and then my hips both did when I was on the door of the truck. There was somebody from the medical team was there right then and nobody else was even around me. He asked if I was ok, and I told him no. He helped get me out of the truck, like I was already sitting on the door. He got me out and I laid down and felt ok. Then I got up and was like alright I probably need to go on in there if it’s going to cramp that bad. I’ve never had cramping like that and when that amount of pain comes in it creates lightheadedness and all of that. It’s not fun, so I’m not going to let it happen again. With the IV’s last night and what they recommended for water intake today, will probably get some more before the race tomorrow. I’m just staying in contact with the medical team to let them kind of guide me on what they recommend.”
“I do. I swear I said it last night, I don’t know what’s in those bags, but it makes you feel like a superhero. It’s awesome. It’s all kinds of vitamins and minerals and potassium and everything that we need that I should have been taking in naturally and more just natural throughout the week that I got lazy on. It’s straight into you and halfway through the first bag I was like I’m ready. Like I’m ready to go. I’ve had probably four of five times throughout my career went and gotten IV’s and it’s worth it to go ahead and stay and get the second bag. Really try to prepare now for two more days on track. I want to be at 100 percent. I feel good though.”
THE ALL-STAR RACE IS ONE OF THOSE EVENTS WHERE IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU DON’T WIN, BUT THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS IS IF YOU WIN. IT’S A MILLION BUCKS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TRACKHOUSE IF YOU WERE TO PULL THIS OFF FOR THE WHOLE ORGANIZATION AND FOR YOU?
“I mean, it’s money. Just call it what it is, right! That’s the whole reward of it. Winning in the Cup Series is just, that is what it is. Being competitive and competing is really my motivation. I want to come to the track every week and compete. That’s my whole life goal right now is just competing. If we aren’t doing that then that’s what we are going to work towards and that’s what we are going to try to win the day. So, whatever that is today’s practice and qualifying. We were just kind of going through it before I walked over here, lie there’s the lights and there’s a buzzer and is there like a laser system or is it just by the eye test if you jump early. Trying to understand all of that is cool. I’ve always watched All-Star qualifying; I mean used to they came off of Turn 4 at a hundred something miles an hour and tried to slowdown and do a pit stop. We’re not doing that, but it’s still this is a bucket list item that I’m getting just to qualify for. Go through a qualifying event where it’s not normal, right? We are going to do one lap and hope we are top eight and then we really get to do the cool stuff, involve our pit crew and go fight for the pole.”
YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A TON OF MOMENTUM. YOU’VE LED IN THE LAST FOUR RACES, UP UNTIL THE SPIN AT DARLINGTON YOU WERE RUNNING UP AT THE FRONT. KIND OF EXPLAIN THAT, LIKE WHAT HAS THIS YEAR BEEN LIKE FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND THEN BEING PART OF SUCH A STRONG TEAM THAT’S PROBABLY BEEN THE BIGGEST STORY THIS YEAR?
“I don’t know if I can explain it because I can’t even believe it sometimes. Everything we are working on is to keep being better, keep being fast and keep competing in the Cup Series like I said. When I lay down or I watch film back from this year, I’m honest when I say I can’t believe that I’m watching the No. 1 and No. 99 compete the way we are. It’s just not supposed to happen this way. I know Justin (Marks) doesn’t like me saying it, but I don’t view myself as a competing, winning Cup Series driver. I prepare to be one. I believe that I’m the best driver. I think that if you don’t think that you shouldn’t be in the Cup Series. Every driver strapping in today for practice should think that they are the best driver. Nobody is better in their car then them. They are the best. I believe that, but man I watch us lead laps, I watch us pick up spots on pit road, control restarts, push on restarts in the front two rows, that is so hard to do. I’ve watched it for 10 years of my career from 2011 until this year really competing. There’s a lot of losing that came along with that. I’m very conditioned to losing. Although I don’t want to sound like I’m complacent with it, I got to a spot in my career several years ago where I just realize what my potential was. Now, Trackhouse, Chevrolet, and Phil Surgen have given me this whole new lease on my career and given me this opportunity to compete. We’ve been preparing for this for years, but to actually go do it is just hard for me to believe, honestly.”
I KNOW HOW CLOSELY THIS ORGANIZATION WORKS TOGETHER, BOTH TEAMS. WITH YOU ALREADY BEING IN, IS THERE A LOT OF FOCUS GOING INTO THE OPEN ON REALLY TRYING TO WORK HARD TO GET DANIEL (SUAREZ) AS WELL RACING HIS WAY IN AND NOT HAVING TO HOPEFULLY DEPEND ON THE FAN VOTE IF NOT? ARE Y’ALL WORKING TOGETHER ON IT, EXCHANGING INFORMATION AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS TO REALLY TRY TO GET THAT TEAM IN AS WELL?
“Yes, and it’s no different than any other week. The 1 and 99 teams work out of the same hauler on the brain side of it. They work in the same office at Trackhouse headquarters in Concord. I mean, we fly together. We live life together. Especially the crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics and pit crews, that’s a given. The cool part about this event is that the Open cars go first, it’s just like an A and B practice for a normal weekend. So, it’s just like we are split up in A and B. He’s going to practice in A and then we’re going to practice and unfortunately or fortunate for me we will learn from him whenever he practices. We will be able to make adjustments going into our practice right after the Open cars for the All-Star cars. Then, we will give him our feedback as they go into qualifying, and we will give them our feedback for them going into their Open race. It’s no different. It’s pretty incredible how much I’ve learned from Daniel. We’re similar in age and we’re similar in a lot of things, but he’s been in Cup longer than me. He’s been mentored by a lot of people that have been in the sport a long time. I am too, but not at this level. Like I was just talking about, and I catch flack for it, because I just don’t view myself in a lot of ways and he does. He knows that and he knows his potential. I’m trying to learn from him and I’m sure there’s things he is learning from me, I think. It’s wild to look back at our careers and see where the different walks of life we’ve came from and literally the different languages we grew up speaking to now both being teammates here. He’s just an awesome guy and we’ll learn from each other throughout these practices and the Open race and hopefully both go compete in the All-Star race.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO LOOK AT ANY OF YOUR IN-CAR HYDRATION SYSTEMS OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU DO TO KEEP HYDRATED BEYOND WHAT YOU DO BEFORE YOU GET IN THE RACECAR?
“I’m looking at all of that. I think I got lazy thinking it was just a Truck race. I don’t wear a cool shirt over there. I don’t do a lot of things I do in the Cup car, and I don’t think I need to change a whole lot. I think the week leading up, probably eat some more watermelon, probably just eat more watermelon in general. I mean, really, I know we joke about the watermelon but if I would have eaten a little more of it probably wouldn’t have had the problems I had. In the car, there’s not a whole lot Niece (Motorsports) could have done. I think it was on me.”
ONE OF THE COLLATERAL THINGS WHEN YOU GET SUCCESS IS THAT YOUR FAN BASE EXPANDS AND POPULARITY GOES UP. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THIS YEAR AND ARE THERE SOME TANGIBLE THINGS THAT SAYS OK I’VE HIT A CERTAIN LEVEL HERE?
“Yeah, I’m probably scaring some of them off with shirtless pictures from the care center hooked up to an IV. I probably should have thought twice about that, but I’m sitting in there waiting on the second bag to get done and just thought I should tell people I’m ok. They gave me my phone and saw a lot of stuff online of what people thought happened and I just wanted to clear it up. I mean, yeah, the most tangible way to measure it is just the business of our racing. The business side of Trackhouse and Ross Chastain has never been better. For both cars, we are bringing on new partners. You guys hear us talking about it. You guys hear us welcoming new people to the family and to the house. I think that’s the best way, so go down the list of people we are announcing, and we’ve got more coming down the pipeline. It’s checking all the boxes. Then yeah, social media numbers are up. That comes with it’s fair share of negativity and that’s ok. Everybody’s got an opinion and social media gives them that platform to share that. I’ve learned how to deal with that better and there was a time where one bad tweet would just make me delete Twitter off my phone and wait three days and then re-download it. Now it’s like I don’t mind, and I don’t have to block people and mute them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few people muted from year’s past. It’s big business racing. I was up in some suites yesterday with the Worldwide Express folks. This is their first race on my car, and they also sponsored my Truck and Dean Thompson. Just looking out, I don’t get up in the suites a whole lot anymore. Used to I was a fan of the grandstands and I was always up there, but looking out you realize how big of a deal this place is and this track. With the big screen and the billboards and everything being color coordinated across the whole footprint of this racetrack and all the advertising that goes on, let alone on TV. I mean we’ve got sponsors on the foam safer barrier blocks in the wall. That’s big business racing and I’m proud our stuff is growing and going good.”