Ross Chastain is “100 percent confident” he still will make the truck playoffs after having his first-place finish Sunday at Iowa Speedway tossed out on a postrace technicality.
But regardless of how Niece Motorsports rebounds from the disqualification, the repercussions still could threaten the future of the truck series team.
“There will be fallout from this for us for a long time,” Chastain said Tuesday during a taping of a NASCAR on NBC Podcast episode (which will be released next week; a video snippet is available above). “It shook (team owner) Al Niece and all of us to our cores (asking), ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’ Al’s prepared for years to win races, and the amount of investment and infrastructure he’s put into this race team, and to get your second win, and they take it away.
“I think it really made him think about why is he doing this? And is this worth doing? It did. He’s a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve just like I do. He’s honest. And he came in the shop (Monday) and had some, for me, very bone-jarring words that was like, ‘Holy cow, this could have a really bad effect on all our futures, his included, in NASCAR.’
“It’s scary stuff right now, and that’s why we will go win this weekend, and we will keep winning.”
The team’s appeal of the penalty will be heard today at 9 a.m., and Chastain will be in attendance (“If they want me to speak, I’ll speak”). Because his team is the first dinged under NASCAR’s revamped approach to postrace inspections this season, it’s difficult to gauge the team’s chances because there is virtually no precedent (the last time a driver was disqualified was more than two decades ago).
In the likelihood that the disqualification is upheld, Chastain faces a stiff challenge to make the playoffs. He must win one of the final six regular-season races and also erase a 69-point gap to hold a requisite top 20 spot in the standings.
Given that only 14 drivers have attempted all 10 truck races in 2019, making the top 20 should be easy, but Chastain has been earning points over only the past two races after electing to switch to truck points in early June. His May 10 victory at Kansas Speedway was ineligible for playoff consideration.
That doesn’t dissuade Chastain from believing he can contend for the truck championship. He will race Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the Chevrolet he drove at Iowa.
“We gave them an eight-race head start, so what’s one more race? How big of a head start do these guys need in the points? No issues on my end,” Chastain said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I am confident, because I know what it’s like to not have speed, and you’re struggling and don’t have resources. We have the resources.”
The full podcast episode will be available on audio and video next week; you can watch a snippet above.