With ‘way more questions than answers,’ Ross Chastain, Ganassi team optimistic on future

Ross Chastain Ganassi future
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ELKHART Lake, Wisconsin – Ross Chastain “wanted to throw up” when he got the surprise that Chip Ganassi Racing was sold to Trackhouse Racing, leaving his full-time Cup Series future in doubt.

But the No. 42 Chevrolet driver was in the right place – on the third and final day of a NextGen test at Dover International Speedway – for some instant therapy when he was asked to make another run shortly after he got the bombshell news via a text message late Wednesday morning.

“I thought you know what, 20 laps in a car is exactly what I need,” Chastain said after qualifying eighth Sunday at Road America. “So I went out and drove the car actually a little too hard. Just drove the car for what it was, and it actually made me appreciate what we’re doing even more. Like if I never get to do this again, this is really cool what I’m doing right now.”

‘ONE OF THE GREATEST:’ NASCAR reacts to Chip Ganassi’s departure

Trackhouse owner Justin Marks has said Ganassi drivers Chastain and Kurt Busch are the leading candidates to be the teammate to Daniel Suarez on the rebranded Ganassi team next year.

Chastain has a longtime relationship with Marks (whom he bought seats from ahead of making his truck series’ debut in 2011 with Marks’ former team) and has talked with him about the Trackhouse opening but said “there’s way more questions than there are answers.

“There truly are no answers” about the future, Chastain said. “It’s not a great feeling for me. But once I got home Wednesday night and laid down, I thought I can’t change it.”

Chastain is optimistic about racing next season but also is keeping his options open, including the possibility of being a test driver for manufacturers as development continues on the NextGen car.

“I see value for me; I’m confident I’m not going to be back at the farm bugging my family just yet,” he said. “I’m going to find something. I’m a survivor if nothing else.”

Though he has yet to contact any other teams about openings since the news, Chastain also has tried to get in touch with all of Ganassi’s sponsors.

Will those with multiyear deals at Ganassi carry over to next season with Trackhouse?

“Some questions are not ready to be answered,” Chastain said. “Everybody knows don’t freak out. We’re all in this same boat. Let’s row together. Because it’s some pretty rough seas right now. It’s scary. You can’t see land, but we know if we all keep going in the same direction, we’ll hit it at some point.

“I feel like I’ve got good partners that believe in me and what I stand for both on and off the track. As long as the right opportunity arises, we’ll keep racing, somehow some way.”

That’s been the message within the team as well. Chastain, who finished a career-best second at Nashville Superspeedway two weeks ago, said crew chief Phil Surgeon gathered the  team members for a pep talk last Thursday before the team headed to Road America and also has held two morale-building dinners in Wisconsin this weekend.

“We’re closer this weekend than probably all year just because there was so much unknown, and it pulled us all together, but we still have a lot of questions and really no answers,” Chastain said. “We’ve had two nights in a row of true fellowship and enjoying each other.”

He at least has experience with career uncertainty. Chastain had a full-time Xfinity Series ride with Ganassi fall through in 2019 because of sponsorship problems and had spent much of the past decade scrounging through underfunded situations to reach his first full-fledged Cup ride this year with Ganassi.

“I’m incredibly blessed,” he said. “I live an incredible life. Yeah, there’s dark moments. There’s dark moments for the richest person in the world and me as a race car driver. But I’ve learned there’s a bigger plan to all this.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.


LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024


LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.