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.”
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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.”
Chip Ganassi is a motorsports icon. I would not be here today if it weren't for Chip. I have the utmost respect for him & I am proud to have represented him on the track. I will be both a friend & a fan for life, and I look forward to finishing out the year strong with @CGRTeams! pic.twitter.com/MdYsqDp3SU
— Ross Chastain (@RossChastain) July 2, 2021
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.”