Chip Ganassi says Ross Chastain still part of team, hopefully its future

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Team owner Chip Ganassi said Ross Chastain remains in his long-term vision.

But that vision won’t include the No. 42 Chevrolet during the 2020 season.

Chip Ganassi Racing announced Matt Kenseth as the replacement for Kyle Larson, who was fired two weeks ago for a racial slur.

Chastain was slated to drive full time in the Xfinity Series for Ganassi in 2019 before a sponsorship deal imploded and has remained under contract with the team. He was considered a leading candidate for Larson’s ride before Kenseth was named to fill the seat for the remainder of the season.

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“I would say we’re on a plan with Ross,” Ganassi said in an interview Monday. “This plan was sort of not congruent to that plan, if you will. The fact that Matt was available gave us some options there. It’s not about who we didn’t find, it’s about who we did find.

“But (Chastain) is still a part of this team, and I hope Ross has a future with this team.”

Ganassi said the team’s deal with Kenseth is through the 2020 season, which could restart next month after being on pause for six weeks because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We said let’s just do something for 2020 here and make sure it’s the right thing for all of us,” Ganassi said. “I hope it is. But right now, it’s just 2020.”

Chastain has been driving full time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. He also has driven in both Gander Outdoors Truck Series races and had started every Cup series race this year.

He has driven the No. 6 in place of Ryan Newman since the Roush Fenway Racing driver was injured in the Daytona 500. Newman was cleared to return Monday by NASCAR, so that stint has ended

During Monday’s NASCAR America at Home episode (at the 2:00 mark of the video above), analyst Jeff Burton said it would have been difficult for Chastain to join a playoff-contending Cup ride at Ganassi while also contending for the Xfinity title with Kaulig.

“The speculation has been Ross Chastain,” Burton said.  He was at Chip Ganassi Racing and did a really good job there. His sponsorship deal fell apart. He did not get his Xfinity ride there, and so it seemed like a natural fit (to replace Larson).

“The problem with that is he joined Kaulig Racing, and coming into this year, many of us picked him to be the favorite for the Xfinity Series championship. So although Cup and Xfinity are at a different level, the commitment that you make to your car owner, sponsors and all those things, they matter. So if you’re going to run a full Cup Series, compete for points there, you can’t in Xfinity. You can’t do both. So I felt like that was going to get complicated for Ross. I don’t know that was the deciding factor, but I’m sure it played a role.”

Ganassi said the team would be requesting a waiver from NASCAR so Kenseth could contend for the Cup playoffs despite missing the first four races.

Kenseth, 48, also provides a stable, successful presence to Ganassi, who told the Associated Press that the veteran lacked any “baggage” as a family man, Daytona 500 winner and 2003 Cup champion.

“Well anytime you’re going through a transition, you want to make sure you cross off as many variables as you can,” Ganassi said. “It’s not only a transition from a driver point of view, it looks like it’s going to be a different season than we’re used to. How you adapt to that and how you meet that challenge is going to be important come year end when you start adding things up.

“And Matt’s the kind of guy, and (teammate) Kurt (Busch) for that matter, it’s good to have guys with that kind of history and playbook and racecraft available to you.”