Friday, Feb 03

Transcript: Ross Chastain - Press Conference - Martinsville Speedway

THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Ross Chastain. We'll get started here.

First off, congratulations on advancing to the final four. If you don't mind, tell us a little bit about the race from your seat, but also take us through the final laps.

ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, our race car was better starting the weekend than we were in the spring. We qualified 27th in the spring. We qualified 9th here. Felt like we made a solid improvement. If we could keep the rear tires on the car, we would have a shot.

We were way too loose the beginning of the race, especially corner entry and exit, even the center the first stage. Tightened up, still really loose corner entry and exit. I thought we got our balance pretty close in stage three, somewhere in there. Maybe it was stage two. I really didn't have a lot more to ask for from Phil for balance.

Ultimately got into the 6. I just drove in too deep to three. When they checked up, I couldn't turn. I got into him. I am sorry. Tried to pay it back to Brad to let him go. I thought I'd just follow him back up through there to get to the seventh, eighth, ninth place. I was stuck in 12th, 13th, somewhere in there. Couldn't pass.

Even when we had it tight enough late in the race, I still was too loose on entry and exit to get position on exit, to pull out a line, or gain ground on entry. I was locking the left front.

We didn't have the pace we needed. We ran ninth in both stages, and were going to run 10th or 12th there at the end. That wasn't enough. Not what you need to do here in the Cup Series in the second to the last race to transfer.

Double-checked off of turn two on the final lap. Brandon and Phil both talked, but I heard, Yes, two spots, garbled up. I knew that's what they meant. Fully committed down the back. Grabbed fifth gear, took my hands off the wheel once I first hit the wall.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

ROSS CHASTAIN: You think they have questions? I have questions. How did that work (smiling)?

Q. When did that move first come into your mind? Today, this week, long ago?

ROSS CHASTAIN: I think the first time I ever saw a race car do that was on a video game, the GameCube 2005 console. I don't know if anybody else in the world had those. My brother Chad beat me doing it at the fictitious I think it was Dodge Raceway somewhere in a fake city, somewhere in Florida.

I never thought about it. Our prep this week, it never crosses my mind. I've done a lot of sim work this week, a lot of iRacing, a lot of stuff, laps here virtually. Never once did it cross my mind or ever try it. I want to make that clear. The last time would have been a long time ago before I was even thinking about being a NASCAR driver. It flashed back in my head on the white flag, and I double-checked off of two. Like, through one and two I thought, I think we need two spots. They said, Yes. If it wrecks, okay, we don't it make it. It might not work, but I'll try it.

Q. (No microphone.)

ROSS CHASTAIN: I thought why not? That's a motto that some buddies and I have back home. We live by 'why not?' To apply that to the Cup Series in this scenario, there are rules. There are a lot of rules out here.

I didn't know how it would all work out. I didn't know if the physics would work to make it around the corner, but it did. I'm sure glad it did.

Q. What did it feel like? You said you have questions. What questions do you have after making this move?

ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, so when I came off turn four, I saw the 11. I ran into the back of the 6 again. I knew it should work. My brain could not comprehend, my bandwidth was shot when I entered turn three and I grabbed fifth gear. Everything went blurry. I couldn't comprehend it.

I had to ask. I saw Justin and Brook, our gas man, grabbing each other and celebrating on the big screen in the infield. I thought that must be a good sign.

But, yeah, I questioned it. When I grabbed fifth, I was like, Well, it's going now. My foot stayed down. I committed to the wall early. It didn't slow down, so it worked.

Q. What is the wiring of somebody's mind to point a car into the wall and floor it, grab fifth gear? That seems to go against every basic survival instinct. How do you do that?

ROSS CHASTAIN: It was fight or flight because we were out. We had already fought trying to stay in, trying all year, right? Everything we've done, the points we've accumulated, and we fought for it, right? The last pit stop was incredible.

The wiring in my head? Hmm... I'm an organ donor so maybe they'll study it one day (smiling). I really am an organ donor. I think everybody should be.

Q. What does it mean to get in with this path that you've taken? Unlike a lot of others that have reached this level. Certainly a number of drivers that have been at your level that had those dreams of being in this position.

ROSS CHASTAIN: What's wild, man, is might call it low, but we were building this thing. I needed time to learn this. If I would have showed up -- I mean, I did show up in race-winning equipment in 2013. Erik Jones beat me at Phoenix. We had the truck that could have won if I would have asked for some different adjustments, knowing what to ask for for the end of the race.

I needed time. Those team owners through Trucks, Xfinity and Cup that gave me the time, I owe so much to. That's through the middle part of what I call my career here in NASCAR.

If you just go back two years, the fall Southern 500 at Darlington, went there with Spire Motorsports. They bought sticker tires for the whole weekend. We had a podcast sponsoring us through T-shirts that we sold that didn't even have my name on it.

I got to go race the fall Darlington race in a Cup car to keep building my notebook. We won our race. We beat the car we wanted to beat that day. That was two years ago.

We came back this year and we had chances to win both Darlington races last fall. In the 42 we had chances to win the Southern 500.

If you go back two calendar years, I was the guy five laps down, seven laps down, something like that. Those were good nights. Those were wins in our book.

Those moments and those nights and those races, those laps, are a big reason why I feel like I'm able to do what I can do now.

Q. The other drivers, they thought your move was cool, but now some of them are saying, We need to actually get a policy against this ASAP because this could be possible at Phoenix, possible elsewhere. What are your thoughts on a Chastain rule? Do you want the door to be closed behind you after this move, or do you want it to stay open in NASCAR's eyes?

ROSS CHASTAIN: That's for people that we have appointed, that the sport has put in those positions, to make those decisions.

I've just not been around long enough to even have an opinion on it. Do I want us all coming to the ends of the races and flooring it? No. That's not what we want.

This is a race. This is a competition. Whether you pass somebody on the inside or outside, pass 'em on pit road, pass 'em against the wall, yeah, it's unorthodox and it wouldn't work almost every other time.

The scenario for it to be worth it to work like that, the car is destroyed. Upper control arm I think is broke on the right front, I had no brakes coming across the finish line. That's not something that everybody's going to just go do now.

But I don't know. I don't know what they should do. I'm sure that I will talk to them this week. I'm sure that we will have lots of conversations about it. I will give my point of view and my opinion. But I'll let them decide, right? They know me well and they know these scenarios well enough now that we've got a good working relationship with race control and everybody at NASCAR. I'm ready to talk and ready to help push it forward if we need to.

Q. One of the things that drivers mentioned was the safety crossover gate in turn four. Briscoe said he thought you were going to end up in his lap. Did you see the gate? Did you think you were going to hit the gate, clip it?

ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, halfway through the corner I saw it, and I had not thought about that.

Look, a quick story. When I started racing back home in 2005, '6, the frontstretch at our 4-17 Speedway had three steps you could walk from the grandstands and underneath the flag stand to go out on the track. My dad had raced there 10 years before. He saw race trucks get wrecked there, rip the suspension off. That hole is about two, three feet wide. We were there one night, and we saw a race truck get destroyed, ripped the right front suspension off, getting pinched into that hole.

We went up there during the week and welded a gate. I was there. We bolted this piece on, then we welded a gate, big heavy-duty steel gate, that went with the flow of the race traffic, the race cars.

I knew that. Did not go through my mind as I'm bouncing off the wall, though. I did see it when I was in the middle of the corner, but it was too late. Testament to the wall.

Q. Whether they change the rule or not, the reality is that you just pulled off one of the moves that's going to probably live on for a long time. Have you thought about that at all?

ROSS CHASTAIN: Sinking in. Did we get the track record?

Q. (No microphone.)

ROSS CHASTAIN: Only in qualifying?

Q. (No microphone.)

ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, well, it's sinking in.

Look, yeah, it's sinking in that we did something that no one else has ever done. That's hard to do in just the world that we live in in 2022, but definitely our sport.

I mean, you just look around at these pictures on these walls, look at all the drivers that have been here. It definitely would not work in a modified, but it worked in a Next Gen car.

Q. What should the move be called? This is your move.

ROSS CHASTAIN: I got no idea or opinion. I'll let y'all tell me. I'll check the Internet tomorrow.

Q. When you consider the way the last two races here finished, what makes Martinsville so susceptible to these exciting finishes?

ROSS CHASTAIN: Our leadership at NASCAR and our partners with our TV broadcast groups, they know what they're doing when they build these schedules. When they pick these dates, these cutoff races, different rounds, it's on purpose. It lives up to the hype every time.

You look at the spring race, single file, couldn't pass. Combination of the car being new, the tire, the weather. This tire Goodyear brought moved around a lot, fell off a lot more from my car. I did not have the grip. I was hanging on for 500 laps today. But you combine that with the track and what we're up against to make it to the championship and have a chance.

This track is here on the schedule for a reason and it lived up again.

Q. I heard today the word 'circus'. What do you think about that?

ROSS CHASTAIN: I think we've been crashing race cars here for I don't know how long this place has been open. Is it 75 years? 75 years we've been crashing cars. I just crashed another car, so...

That's how I look at it.

Q. (No microphone.)

ROSS CHASTAIN: I have seen a clip on a cell phone of the front-facing streaming camera, then I saw it walking in the media center here on someone's laptop, the shot from above the grandstands, where the spotters -- it looks like probably where Brandon McReynolds was standing with his jaw wide open. He didn't know what to say. Nobody did.

I've seen just a quick clip. I can't believe that I'm the guy driving that Moose car, to be honest. Honestly I can't believe it's me in there.

Q. Is this something that would have been possible in the Gen-6 car versus the Next Gen car?

ROSS CHASTAIN: No idea. I don't know. I don't really have a clue.

Q. All season many analysts said you won't make the Playoffs because you make people mad. Here you are. Nobody paid you back. What are your thoughts?

ROSS CHASTAIN: I will tell myself a bit, the last pit stop we beat the 11 off pit road. I messed up into three a lap or two into the restart, locked the left front. I was having issues with that. Locked my rears and the left front. I was in a bad spot.

He moved me out of the way entry of turn three. I returned the favor into one. He returned the favor, I returned the favor. We body slammed off of four, and Phil Surgen keyed up and said the think neutral. I couldn't see how me being in front of him, that I would finish the race and have even a chance to transfer.

He got back position on me and I got in line behind him. I thought we're perfectly capable of running with him, and we only have to be within three spots they were telling me, two to be safe.

He just started passing cars. He passed one after the other after the other. He took me to school. It's something that I'll never forget. In that moment I had full confidence that I could match him. I needed 15, 20 laps of that or less. He passed five cars and I passed zero. I passed one later, two later, but I was still too many out.

That's something that I will never forget, the fact that I had full confidence. Denny put on a clinic of passing here, getting everything out of his car. His car was not driving great, but he was able to carry it in that moment, and I couldn't do it.

That is something I will work to be better at. I will strive to be a better race car driver in those moments. I could not put my car in position how it needed to to make lap time and to pass especially.

I could make lap time, but I could not pass and he could. Watching that was painful. We had just traded blows back and forth a couple times.

Yeah, it was scary, so... Yeah, everything that I've learned, though, this year in my career all went into getting us here, throughout this entire season, all the Playoffs. We are no fluke. This is our arrival. We have everything we need to compete at this level.

Q. I took a look at your car after the race. Right side used up, chunks of the outside wall in the wheel wells. Is there any future for the that car outside of being a museum piece?

ROSS CHASTAIN: I'm not sure. That's up for Justin and Ty and Tony Lunders and Darian Grubb to decide. It was some hard hits. It didn't feel great.

The control arms might both be broken on the right front. They'll have to take it all apart and measure everything. As far as the chassis goes.

We've got a great group with GM and Chevrolet to do that. The great thing about these cars is if it's not bent, we can race it next year. It wasn't going to Phoenix either way, I knew that.

But, yeah, I'm not sure. Obviously everything that's got a scratch on it is coming off and will never be raced again. It will be spread out to remember this moment.

The last lap, the last corner, I know that will be the focus. I hope this takes NASCAR to the number one moment on SportsCenter, right? If we're going to do it, let's go all the way.

Let's not forget the path of Trackhouse to get here, how unorthodox we are. How we took a building and an A team, and then we brought in another team to build this team as a family. We've got more buy-in on the shop floor than I've ever witnessed in a race team. I'm so proud to get to do it with this group, that we'll spread the bits and pieces left from this car out and try to give everybody a little token to remember this night.

Bigger than the last lap, just remember the fact we are putting ourselves in position to just have a shot at a championship. That's all we ask for.

Q. You talked about looking at the big screen, saw Justin going crazy. You bang against the wall. When you finally realized it actually worked, what was your first gut emotional reaction?

ROSS CHASTAIN: Complete mayhem in the car. Phil keyed up and said, You did it, we're in.

It's wild that my brain, thinking back through those moments of what all happened, I saw the 11 out my window net across the line, and I was looking at him. I hit the 6. Like, I knew it, but it did not comprehend.

All that time my radio is silent, as far as I remember. I looked up, dropped the net, I saw them. Tell me, boys. Phil keyed up. I just lost my mind. I was screaming and fist pumping. I've learned my lesson. I don't punch the dash anymore, that hurts, carbon fiber, all the gauges, they hurt, the bars. I just lost my mind all the way around pit road.

Look, I've made a lot of mistakes in this sport. I've had some congratulations at times when we win and stuff. Definitely COTA. My first Truck win, my first Xfinity win. I'm going to say I got more congratulations claps from industry crew and people and mechanics coming down pit road. It was unreal.

Whether they were congratulating me for the wildness of it or they were genuinely happy, I'm not sure. I'm going to take it that I had more people make it a point to walk out of their pit boxes to physically acknowledge me. That means as much to me as anything.

This garage, you know what, the word was used earlier, 'circus'. We are a traveling circus. I'm proud to be in this circus. I'm proud of my brothers and sisters that I go to battle with. They might get mad at me. Some of the stuff I talked about earlier in the year, it's been wild to race against my heroes. They're left, right, forward, back. The craziest thing is when they've been mad at me. I've had crew members be mad at me this year. That's the most humbling experience that I've ever experienced.

So having more acknowledgment or more smiles my way, whether it was because it was crazy or not, I don't really care. I'm going to take it. I don't get many from the garage. Just them acknowledging that, whether it was good or bad on their end, they acknowledged, they smiled, gave me a thumbs up and I'll take it.

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