Monday, Nov 28

CHEVROLET NCS AT HOMESTEAD: Ross Chastain Press Conference Transcript

YOU MAY BE ONE OF THOSE THAT IS OWED ONE. HOW DO YOU APPROACH IT HERE AND AT MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK?

“Go race. I think that is what is so great about this sport, is that every seven days we pack up and move the circus to another town and we do it all again. I feel like I am in a good spot in the garage. The summer was definitely tough, and I learned a lot from a lot of that and we will continue to learn and evolve throughout this sport and this series. It’s incredible to race against your heroes, but it’s kind of odd and humbling when your heroes get mad at you. So, it’s been a learning experience for sure.”

 

WITH THIS BEING A LEARNING EXPERIENCE, WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

“Just that there are so many races and so many opportunities to pass, and it’s not always about the here and now. I had to stop living in the moment of each lap and definitely race with a mindset of a broader look across the whole season and see that the entire body of work will get me a lot farther than one pass and not caring about what happens. Just putting a lot at risk for like seventh and why did that really matter, and just looking at the whole body of the season. Especially with the speed that we have had and letting the car do a lot of the work for me, then when we get in those positions to win or to go for that spot late, it becomes a whole lot easier when you have just done it a better way two months before. These guys have incredible memories and as I have evolved and learned, it’s been easier to race and that has been nice.”

 

REGARDING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FANS GIVEN YOUR BACKGROUND AND WHERE YOU CAME FROM.

“Yes, it is, it’s incredible. We are known in South Florida for farming and agriculture. We are not known for racing. The Chastain family is not a namesake in the sport, so I didn’t come in with a predisposed reputation of my dad. My dad raced locally down here in South Florida, but it wasn’t on this stage. So, we have built up our fanbase kind of at a grassroots level through the Melon Man Brand and through my racing in the last decade in this sport. I probably haven’t done myself a lot of favors with my social media and my online presence to push myself. That’s just not me and I am not one that is just going to willingly and naturally go and just post selfie videos and do YouTube Channels. My group has to push me. But I have surrounded myself with people and we are evolving and learning how to present ourselves on social media. I think that and the speed of the Trackhouse cars has created a lot more cheers at driver intros. And some boos, right? Along the way, I didn’t do myself any favors in those moments in the summer when the spotlight was on us, and I got out and my post-race interviews were not appealing. I look back and I wouldn’t root for that guy. That guy drives one way and he talks another, and he doesn’t know what he wants and he apologizes. So yeah, I get it and that is part of the evolution I think.”

 

DO THE BOOS BOTHER YOU AT ALL OR IT IS WHAT IT IS AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT?

“You know, it’s funny because when I hear them, I almost smile because it’s wild. It’s wild that people care enough about me and my racing career - I think that’s why they’re booing me at least – that they want to boo me.

 

A smile has just kind of been my natural reaction. It’s different, right? It’s not something that as a kid, no kid wants to get booed. You don’t want to get booed on the playground at recess and you don’t want to be booed at a NASCAR race. But I’m a big boy now and I’ve learned that it’s going to happen. We get a lot more cheers than boos, I can say that.”

 

DENNY (HAMLIN) WAS ON DANICA (PATRICK’S) PODCAST THE OTHER DAY AND HE SAID THAT WHEN YOU GUYS WENT TO BREAKFAST, YOU SAID WHEN YOU GREW UP RACING, YOU HAD TO KNOCK SOMEBODY OUT OF THE WAY TO PASS PRETTY MUCH. IF THAT’S ACCURATE, WHEN DID IT OCCUR TO YOU THAT’S NOT THE WAY EVERYBODY GREW UP RACING AND THAT’S NOT THE WAY EVERYBODY RACES?

“I think people remember things in a better light than they might have actually been. Like we remember the good old days a little better than the old days might have actually been. I grew up with guys at a Saturday night short track over on the west coast of Florida. And yeah, that was Randy Fox; he crashed and fought for seventh in a late model race. He had beverages after and hung out all night in the pits after the race. I don’t think it was this perfect little race track in Virginia that everybody raced so eloquently. I just think the good old days might be being remembered a little better than they actually were.

 

Some of the things that I did throughout the summer, looking back, I would do them different. Some of it would just be my stance after the race that I would do different. But a lot of on-track stuff, I could definitely clean up. In the Cup Series, I’ve never driven cars this fast and I wanted to just take full advantage of it because I thought it might go away. Now, as I’ve seen throughout the playoffs, what’s really opened my eyes – Trackhouse’s arrival here is to stay. We’re not just a flash in pan early in the season when the car was fresh and nobody really knew how the springs and shocks were.

 

The guys that I raced against growing up – I watched them when I was running the pro trucks and they were in late models. When I got into late models, and the pro trucks as well, it’s just slammed or be slammed. So I think the good old days are being remembered better than they were.”

 

YOU MENTIONED YOUR FAMILY AND OBVIOUSLY YOU’RE FROM ALVA, OVER BY FORT MYERS. HURRICAN IAN DID A LOT OF DAMAGE OVER THERE. HAVE YOU BEEN BACK? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHERE THINGS ARE?

“I have not been back. I was there about a week or so before it hit and everybody was kind of getting ready. But it’s a hurricane.. they come every so often. When it hit, it was a big deal. The coast took the brunt of it. We’re inland a little bit. Our houses are fine and everybody is living in their homes now. A little roof damage here and there; a little screen porch damage. But the main thing was just the amount of water that came on shore. We have neighbors and friends that their houses flooded. A lot of my family is here for my race and Chad’s (Chastain, brother) race this weekend. They’re just like ‘we’re ready to take a break’. The cleanup and the rebuilding is going to be for years. They just wanted to come enjoy the race and it’ll all be there on Monday when we drive back. But they just keep telling me that I won’t believe it when I do see it, even when I come back after Phoenix at some point. They are like you will not be able to comprehend what it looks like. It just looks like another country; something you would see on the news, on TV or online.

 

For the farm, we pretty much survived. There’s some damage and some pull barns are down, but our main facility stayed up and offices are in working orders. We’ll be shipping watermelons just like we always have.”

 

THIS IS OBVIOUSLY THE HIGH WATER MARK OF YOUR CAREER, IN TERMS OF COMPETING FOR A MAJOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT – HOW DIFFICULT IS IT – TO REMAIN FOCUSED ON WHAT WE HAVE TO DO HERE TODAY INSTEAD OF LETTING YOURSELF WANDER OFF DOWN THE PATH TO ‘IN TWO WEEKS, WE COULD BE RACING FOR THE CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP’?

“High mark, so far. Luckily, for me, I can compartmentalize. I had a conversation this week and what we were describing, me and this person, we were talking about their life. They felt like their life is one big box and everything was always intermingled and all the wires were connected. I was like I think mine is box, by box, by box. I open one box and all the other boxes automatically shut. That’s just how I’m wired. I think that’s what makes part of my racing ability, for better or worse, what it is. I’m not saying I’m full-blown gold fish, but about every lap, it feels like a new lap. When I come back around, I have a new expectation of what I can do and it doesn’t have a lot of bearing. Yeah, I take each lap and build my notebook throughout the weekend, my race, my career and my life. But I can go lap-by-lap a lot easier than if you ask me to think about something two weeks from now. I’m in Homestead.. I haven’t even put any thought into Martinsville, let alone Phoenix. Those that know me, know it’s not just a sweet answer up here. It’s the truth, for better or worse sometimes. Sometimes it’s not a good thing.”

 

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE COME TO YOUR HOME TRACK BEING A CUP WINNER AND YOU’RE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE FOR YOU TO BE HERE AND TO BE ABLE TO SAY THAT?

“The nerves side is an easy one to talk about. I have less nerves than I did a couple years ago when I came here for a Truck championship with Niece Motorsports in 2019. That was the first time that had ever happened. That was the first time I had ever been in the playoffs; made a run and we were here fighting for a championship. That definitely had a lot more nerves.

 

This weekend, my brother is running the truck race. Honestly, I get more nervous for that, as odd as that sounds. I’m way more fine with the Cup race and doing everything I need to do with my group. But when I don’t have control when he’s out racing.. I just wish I could have control and I don’t. It’s their deal, it’s his team. I’m just up in the grandstands by myself fidgeting. Those two things take my mind off of how serious what we’re doing with the No. 1 Chevy right now. But it feels good.. it feels really good to see the smiles of my family and friends. Guys that let me drive race cars when I was 14 years old. There were only a few that weren’t my dad and a couple of those guys are here. Just enjoying the weekend living out all of our dreams of racing in the Cup Series. It was their dreams too and they’re living it through me.”

 

YOU SAID EARLIER IN THE YEAR, PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT TRACKHOUSE RACING WAS A FLASH IN THE PAN AND WOULDN’T MAKE IT TO THIS LEVEL. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT TRACKHOUSE THIS YEAR, BEHIND THE SCENES, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ORGANIZATION TO GET YOU AND DANIEL (SUAREZ) TO WHERE YOUR AT?

“It starts with this car. This is an unprecedented move by NASCAR and the France family to roll out this car. Everything that it stands for is why Trackhouse Racing is here in the first place. Justin (Marks) would not have gone on this endeavor of Cup racing.. he’s smart enough to know he was never going to catchup with the old car. So that’s why we got here.

 

As we got here, I don’t know enough about race cars to truly know why our cars go as fast as they do. I know the things we do; I know the procedures we have in place. We think we know that we’re doing the right thing, but it’s racing. Somebody can always build a better box.

 

For me, throughout the year, just continuing to have that speed is why we’re not just a quick blimp on the Cup Series radar. This is our arrival. I’m not going to sit up here and tell you I know why our cars go fast.. that’s for somebody way smarter than me. I just drive them.”

 

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