Ross Chastain takes family motto to title race: Just Do It


AVONDALE, Ariz. — That Ross Chastain even has a chance to be a Cup champion Sunday at Phoenix Raceway is, perhaps, more remarkable than if he wins the title.

He wasn’t born into racing royalty as Chase Elliott. He wasn’t viewed as a generational talent as Joey Logano. He wasn’t groomed by a manufacturer as Christopher Bell.

Instead, Chastain relied on lessons from his family of watermelon farmers to climb from underfunded rides to the top of NASCAR’s premier series.

When Chastain shifted into fifth gear, drove his car into the wall and rocketed around Martinsville Speedway’s final two corners last weekend in a desperate bid to make the title race, he was merely following the edict of farm life. And the name of his family’s watermelon operation in Florida: JDI Farms. The JDI stands for Just Do It.

“The thing is, you just do it no matter what the job is,” Ross Chastain’s brother, Chad, told NBC Sports about the family’s motto and business name. “You just do it.

“One of our big things here in Florida is we’ll get these pop-up showers and it will dump two or three inches of rain on you an hour. You have to get that off (the fields) right away. So you don’t have time to freak out or panic and worry about it. You just have to go and do your job and get the water pumped out of the field, so you don’t lose your crop.

“I think growing up, doing that, being up with our dad at midnight when it’s pouring and we’re running around on tractors and we’re calling each other on the phone … it’s something that definitely prepared us for the pressure of racing and life in general.”

There was no grand plan for Ross Chastain’s racing career. After success in the short track ranks, Chastain looked to move up to NASCAR. A deal was put together for him to run a Truck race in 2011 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

“That was it,” he said of the one-race effort. “That was the plan.”

Chastain finished 10th. It led to a few more rides that season and a full-time effort in 2012 in that series. He moved to Brad Keselowski Racing’s team in the Truck series in 2013 and ran 14 of 22 races. The following season proved more challenging. Chastain ran only three Truck races and seven Xfinity races. 

But it was his performance in the Truck season finale that caught the attention of Xfinity Series owner Johnny Davis. Chastain started third and finished 11th. 

Davis was looking for a driver for the 2015 Xfinity season, but there was a catch. The ride would be a start-and-park effort, meaning Chastain would not get to run many laps before pulling the car into the garage because of lack of funding.

Davis let Chastain to race in the 2015 season opener at Daytona since speedway racing provides more teams a chance for a good result. Chastain finished ninth. 

“We had a legitimate shot to win the race,” Davis told NBC Sports. “I said, I can’t start-and-park the kid like this. This kid’s got talent. We need to help him showcase it.”

Chastain did not start-and-park any race that season. Daytona was the first of 142 races over five seasons with Davis. Chastain scored 13 top-10 finishes in that span. It’s not an impressive record but the team was more of a mid-pack operation and the focus was on not wrecking cars. Still, Chastain showed skill. He also showed a level of determination. 

What he didn’t show at a key moment was confidence.

In 2017, a sponsor came to Davis with some extra money for a race and he decided to channel it into a Cup ride for Chastain with team owner Jay Robinson. The catch was the race was at Dover, not the easiest track for drivers, let alone someone without Cup experience.

“I went to Ross and said this is what we’re going to do,” David said.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to get in a Cup car,” Chastain told him.

“Boy, you’ve been ready to get into a Cup car,” Davis said. “I’m not asking. I’m forcing you.”

Chastain recalls that moment vividly.

“I just never thought I was ready for Cup,” he said. “I’m glad that they were stern with it. Because if they would have given me my choice, I wouldn’t have done it. Wouldn’t have gone to Dover for my first Cup race. No way.”


“It’s scary,” Chastain said. “It is. It’s Cup racing. It’s hard. You see the guys that do it. Put them on the highest pedestal that I have.

“I just (didn’t) view myself as ready for that. That’s me. I don’t really know how to answer your question other than that was my thoughts and I still don’t believe that I was ready until I actually got in the race. Practice and qualifying, I wasn’t ready. I got in the race, it all clicked.”

Chastain finished 20th. 

His journey was just getting underway.

In 2019, Chastain completed a weekend trip that included a Greyhound bus in his commute from one track to another. 

He drove his camper from Pocono to Watkins Glen for the next Xfinity race. But he had a midweek Truck race at Eldora Speedway. He decided against flying because of cost of a commercial plane ticket and took a Greyhound bus from upper New York to Columbus, Ohio. 

His father picked him up at the bus station. After the Truck race, they piled into a van and drove back while Chastain slept. The van had a flat a few miles from Watkins Glen, but Chastain made it to the track on time.

Chastain’s break came in 2018 when he got to run three races for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity team. Chastain won at Las Vegas in his second start with the team.

He was set with a full-time ride for Ganassi’s Xfinity team in 2019, but that changed a few days before Christmas. The FBI raided DC Solar’s headquarters and the CEO’s home. The company was to have sponsored Chastain in 2019. 

Without a sponsor, Ganassi shut the team down on Jan. 4, 2019. Chastain was suddenly without a ride.

“From the night I found out the raid happened, which was a day and a half later to Jan. 2, in my head I was done racing in NASCAR,” Chastain said. “Jan. 2, I decided to try it again.”

What did he mean he was done with racing?

“In my head, once that (ride) was gone, I just never thought I’d have another opportunity like that and I wasn’t mentally ready to go back and run scuffed tires (for underfunded teams),” he said. “Ultimately, I decided to go back and run scuffed tires.”

It led back to Ganassi but to the organization’s Cup team in 2021. When Justin Marks bought Ganassi’s Cup operation that season, he kept Chastain. 

In their first year together, Chastain and Trackhouse will vie for a Cup title Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).

“This is wild,” Chastain said.

Just like his ride to this moment.

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

MORE: Truck points after COTA

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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