We’ve had two recent NASCAR Cup Series driver announcements the last month or so and both are for drivers that took a big risk and it paid off. Kudos for Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman on doing so.
In a day and age of racing to where a driver bringing a paycheck normally holds more merit than on track performance, both drivers took what little funding that they had and turned down full time opportunities with smaller organizations for part time gigs with bigger teams.
It was a risk in the sense of a couple of factors actually. At least running with smaller budget teams but on a full time basis kept them relevant. The best way to catch the eye of a Rick Hendrick or Chip Ganassi or anyone else for that matter was to stay on the race track. Yes, you may be running for no position better than 15th, but at least you were racing.
On the flipside, turning down that opportunity to race on a limited basis for a top time packed a lot of pressure. You had no mulligan. If you didn’t perform in their equipment right off the bat, then you’d never get another chance to do so again.
You’re essentially betting on yourself in a limited basis. We all know how tough it is to win in any racing series anymore if you’re not a full time driver, so the spotlight was on them.
Their different paths than what everyone else is doing paid off. Chastain will drive for CGR in the No. 42 Chevrolet in 2021 while Bowman gets a new deal to shift from the No. 88 Chevrolet to the No. 48 Chevrolet with HMS.
That’s refreshing to see. Both drivers have an immense amount of talent that would have gone overlooked if they kept their course. Drivers getting Cup rides now-a-days are younger and younger and are coming up through the ranks through a different path. Then, the other rides are going to ones depending on what size of a check they’re bringing to the teams.
Chastain, didn’t have a lot of money but he had a deal with JD Motorsports in 2018 but took some of his money for a three race audition with CGR in the Xfinity Series. He won the pole and led the most laps at Darlington of all places in Race 1, won his second race at Vegas with them and was runner-up in his final start at Richmond. That showing paid off. He was signed to be a CGR driver for 2019. One problem, the sponsor (DC Solar) folded due to a federal investigation. Chastain, was left high and dry. Ganassi, saw his potential and left him on his payroll still and loaned him to Kaulig Racing instead. He ran part time with Kaulig and JDM as well as full time in the Truck Series.
In 2020, he was back with Kaulig in NXS on a full time basis. Now, he gets promoted to the Cup level back under the Ganassi umbrella for 2021 and beyond.
For Bowman, he found out via social media that Tommy Baldwin Racing was going in a different direction. Instead of racing for another underfunded team, he took his talent to Chevrolet and HMS as a developmental role. It paid off for him too.
He ran 10 race as a handpicked successor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he sat out for concussion like symptoms. Bowman, also ran select races for JR Motorsports that year too. He shined and had opportunities to go elsewhere for 2017. But, the Arizona native bet on himself and had trust and faith that HMS would take care of him. So, he sat out 2017 and stayed on as a developmental role and simulator driver hoping the risk would lead to a bigger future.
Bowman, landed as Earnhardt Jr’s replacement with HMS in 2018 and now got the boost of confidence to move over to the 48 car to replace the retiring Jimmie Johnson for 2021 and hopefuly beyond.
Think about that. He went from being laid off via social media, to filling in for Earnhardt Jr. in 2016, to racing twice in NXS competition in 2017 to replacing Earnhardt in the 88 in 2018 and now replacing Johnson in 2021.
It’s a wild journey that both took to get to the top but the gambles and sacrifices along the way paid off.