ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 WORLDWIDE EXPRESS CAMARO ZL1 – Pole Winner
TAKE US THROUGH THAT QUALIFYING LAP. YOU TALKED EARLIER TODAY ABOUT HOW STRONG YOU FELT YOUR CAR WAS AND YOU GUYS WERE ABLE TO BACK THAT UP DURING QUALIFYING.
“Yes, ma’am. In round one for us over the last two years with the new car has been relatively, at times, strong. Definitely qualifying as a whole has not been my strong suit in my life, so a lot of work has went into it and not a lot of payoff.. not a lot of reward. Even the times that we do tie together round one, I’ve never been able to put round two together in a way that I’m proud of and that I feel like I’ve done right. I usually overdrive and when I should just go the same speed, or a little slower even and be fine, I usually slow down even more because I try to go faster. Today was all about minimizing the loss. Round one, I felt pretty good. I over slowed turn one – basically slowed down too fast in turn one. I wanted to make that better – I have no idea if I actually did, I haven’t looked at any of the information or data yet.
We’re pretty pumped up that we got this pole. I know that I didn’t mess it up too bad, obviously. I ran basically the same lap time, which was really challenging with it getting hotter and the second lap on tires.”
YOU HAD A REALLY GOOD LAP. COULD YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THIS MEANS FOR TRACKHOUSE – THIS BEING THE FIRST POLE FOR THEM AND IT BENIG THE FIRST POLE FOR YOU?
“Yeah, I mean look – we’re in Nashville. This is where Trackhouse was formed. It was started here with Justin (Marks) living here. We are Nashville’s team. With the Tootsies group with Steve and everybody, it’s incredible to have it happen here. It’s amazing. For me, personally, it’s amazing that it hasn’t happened before with how strong Daniel (Suarez) is at qualifying. Since I’ve become teammates with him, at road courses, my margin is two-tenths. If I’m within two-tenths of Daniel, I’m pretty happy. At intermediates and stuff, we’re kind of 100th for 100th with each other, and we saw that in round one. So for me, it’s been a labor of a lot of work and schooling, personally, to try to be better. We did a mock run yesterday just to keep working on it. It’s not necessarily the best thing to do for race-wise, but my team has put a lot of work into me. My engineers have done a really good job of explaining where I’ve went wrong in the past, even in times that I wasn’t driving the No. 1 car but with other teams. They’ve looked at that and tried to understand my philosophy when we go to qualifying – which has generally been more gas, less brake, go faster. That doesn’t always work… most of the time it doesn’t work. So they’ve been on me to literally, as simple as it sounds – less gas, more brake, earlier brake, later on throttle and let the car work. I’ve struggled with this single-lap qualifying. If we have two laps, I would say my numbers are a whole lot better. Group qualifying when we had minutes to go, I could take a couple of laps and I’d be really good. One lap, coming to the green and checkered, has been so frustrating for me for my entire career.. definitely in NASCAR.
It’s so rewarding right now. This is a day I will never forget.”
FIRST POLE MEANS YOU’RE GOING TO GET THE COVETED P-1 PIT BOX. HOW BIG OF AN ADVANTAGE WILL THAT BE AT A PLACE LIKE NASHVILLE SUPERSPEEDWAY?
“I don’t know, I’ve never been there (laughs). I’ve never gotten it in Cup, so I have no idea. Trackhouse Racing has never had it either. We do our pit road studies every week; we know the numbers and the math. We’re going to have to go and whatever pit box is best – I’m assuming it’s going to be the first one, but that’s up to Phil Surgen and our group at Trackhouse Racing and GM to decide.
But yeah, I have no idea what it’s going to be like, but it feels pretty good right now.”
WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT TOMORROW – BEING ON THE POLE OR BEING SECOND IN 10-LAP AVERAGE AND SPEED YESTERDAY?
“Yeah, long run speed, for sure. It’s nice that we’re not going to have to pass a bunch. Hopefully everything stays how it is and we get out to a lead there. But race trim-wise, it’s super strong. Really good balance. It doesn’t feel great. Going through the corners here, they always feel slow to me because there’s not a lot of banking and it’s concrete. But it shows really good. I would rather have good average speed than single lap, but we put a lot of work into single lap, for sure.”
YOU WERE REALLY EMOTIONAL WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR AND WAITING FOR THE POLE TO BE DECIDED. TEARS OF JOY, TEARS OF RELIEF?
“The tears out there were of joy and satisfaction; just happiness that it’s paid off. All this comes down to speed; hundreds and thousandths of a second and that we were able to do it. So much work for years and it didn’t pay off, and it paid off. That’s what those were.
Everything else, I’ve learned at 30 years old to embrace this room. Embrace everybody that throws opinions and thoughts my way. I take them and I bounce them off my team, personally and professionally; with my family and my group both in Trackhouse and out. They help me walk through that. But mentally, I just form my own opinion. I take everybody’s little bits and I make my own thoughts.
Look, we’re all human. When people tell you that you’re slow, then it’s easy to think that you’re slow. I have a good support through and they like to remind me why we’re here; that we’re in the Cup Series and this is where we wanted to get to. We did not have a clear path here, but we got here and now we’re going to stay here.
Personally, I’m happy for my team and me. I mean I’m selfish – this was about the work that we’ve put in. How many times I’ve had cars capable of qualifying on the pole in the Cup Series, and then down through every rank from the very first pro truck division that I did at 12 years old. There were times, so many, that should have been pole laps and I messed them up. So this today, on this stage, we are able to do it. All that said, I could have very easily spun out. So glad I made it.”
IS THIS POLE A LITTLE BIT MORE SPECIAL KNOWING THAT IT ALMOST FEELS LIKE YOU’RE BACK IN THE POSITIVE LIGHT AND THE POSITIVE HEADLINES? HOW MUCH MOMENTUM DOES SOMETHING LIKE A FIRST POLE CARRY FOR YOU GOING INTO SUNDAY?
“Personally, it’s a day that I will truly never forget. No matter how the weekend goes or the rest of the year, I will always have a memory of today. We all have key, core memories within our lives and in our minds.
I don’t really know how this changes in the spotlight and things like that. I’m me. Trackhouse gets the good and the bad, and our sport as a whole gets me for who I am. Everybody expects me to just be like very repeatable and robotic, I feel like. That I should just be one way or the other. I’m human.. I’m going to do things different each time and try to be better. I’m not going to do the same thing over and over because if I want to do that, I’d be really good at failing and I don’t like failure. I don’t like crashing. I want to win. I will continue to evolve to do that. I’ve got a really good group around me that gets me through the bad days. We celebrate the good days and work through the bad ones, and keep working in the good ones, as well.”
AVERAGE FINISH HERE IS 3.5 IN THE CUP SERIES. WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU AND NASHVILLE SUPERSPEEDWAY THAT YOU SEEM TO ADAPT SO WELL?
“I’ve got a really good crew chief and engineers that give me rocket ships. This was our, really I would say, arrival to the fast club in the No. 42 car in 2021. The high power, low downforce package that year was definitely our stronger suit. But we unloaded here second quick – raced up in the top-10 all day and came home second. Last year, it was similar. Had a lot of speed. I thought we had a pole qualifying car and I just went 2.5 mph too fast through turns one and two; I got tight, slid up and lost two-tenths. I tried to go too fast. So today was all about keeping that speed down in the critical parts. Obviously going faster the whole lap, but giving up some to gain it back later. We’ve had speed all three years. I prepare just like any other track. I don’t put any track ahead of the others, but it starts with Phil Surgen and our support group at Trackhouse and GM. They’ve got a good handle on this place and it shows. You saw both Daniel (Suarez) and I were two of the fastest cars in round one.”
JUSTIN HALEY, NO. 31 LEAFFILTER GUTTER PROTECTION CAMARO ZL1 – Qualified third, Haley’s first top-10 qualifying effort this season
“Just hats off to everyone at Kaulig Racing. They’ve just worked so hard to this point. Everyone at RCR has done a tremendous job in helping us. I feel like over the past month, we’ve really gotten our program into a spot where I feel better driving the car. The car reacts to what I’m doing.
Just super proud of everyone. It’s been an awesome weekend and hopefully we can stay up there. I feel like qualifying is the most important part with track position because passing is so difficult at this top level of motorsports. Excited for tomorrow.”
YOU’VE PRACTICED AND QUALIFIED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. IT’S GOING TO BE DIFFERENT CONDITIONS TOMORROW NIGHT FOR THE RACE. ARE YOU EXPECTING THE RACE TRACK TO CHANGE DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED SO FAR?
“Well hopefully our car is better in the nighttime. Last night it got a little bit cooler in practice, but you just don’t know. We’ll just have to go back through our notes and see what the track does. It’s a concrete track, so it’s a little bit different. I wish I could give you a better answer, but I just don’t know.”