Detailing the move for Chastain/Trackhouse, why the No. 1 and why Justin Marks wants job security for his drivers

Trackhouse Racing announced today that Ross Chastain will drive the organization’s second NASCAR Cup Series entry starting in 2022 and revealed his car will be the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro.

Chastain will join the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro driver Daniel Suárez when the first year Trackhouse organization expands into a two-car team in 2022. In June, Trackhouse announced the acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR assets, a move that secured two full-time NASCAR Cup Series entries and cleared the path for expansion.

Chastain, 28, a native of Alva, Fla., earned the “Melon Man” nickname for his family’s history in the watermelon farming business. For eight generations his family has been farming watermelons, and Chastain continues to work on the family’s land when his schedule allows.

Chastain’s signature move after a race win is to spike a watermelon at the finish line and eat the biggest piece left.

He began his racing career at the age of 12 at Punta Gorda Speedway in his home state of Florida, racing in the Fastkid division. At 14, he began racing adults in the Fastruck Series and raced Crate Late Models at age 16. During his short-track racing career he scored over 50 wins in feature events, including the 2011 World Series of Asphalt Limited Late Model class at New Smyrna Speedway, winning three of eight events in the series.

With that said, some may wonder how this deal fully came about? I mean, why not Kurt Busch staying? I think the writing is on the wall there that Busch is going to be heading to 23XI Racing. That’s why the path for that second seat went to stay in house and talk to Chastain.

Chastian, said that after their initial talks that he never felt like his job security past this year was ever seriously threatened. He said that he knows it may sound naïve, but he always expect to stay put with the team even with Ganassi being bought out and Trackhouse taking over. He said that his relationship with Justin Marks was a big reason as to why he just went to him directly in asking about 2022 and why he feels this deal got done.

“From my side, when the acquisition happened, I told Justin, I just texted him, and said I want this,” Chastain said. “It was just simple. I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t confer with anybody. I knew Justin on that level, and I wanted it.”

Chastain notes that from there, there were a lot of moving pieces and that’s the business side that he’s not involved in. That direction was out of his control but he’s glad it was able to get done.

“But this is a big organization now,” he continued. “This is a large part of Chevrolet. And so, working through a lot of that stuff and my tenure now with Chevrolet is really from my career and changing the trajectory that it was on. It’s gone a lot of different ways over the years, and I am very blessed to find a home with Chevrolet. So that was important to me. And the relationships that I have there, both internally here in this race shop, but also across the broader Bowtie family where I’ve driven for is where I’ve made the most relationships. It took a little bit of working through the process, but I know for myself, and I think I speak for Justin, that we wanted it and whether or not it all worked out, we had to work through all the other stuff. But fundamentally, down at the core of it, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.”

Trackhouse felt the same.

Chastain, who currently drives for Ganassi, has been one of the sport’s hottest drivers the past three months they say. Trackhouse founder Justin Marks said he has been impressed with Chastain over the past couple of years and a big reason as to why it’s not just about their past history together or their relationship as to why he kept him for next season.

“He’s got a lot of fight and a lot of want in him,” said Marks of Chastain. “And I tell people this. When there’s a nuance when you’re looking at drivers and you’re trying to determine what skill sets they’ve got and what kind of potential they have. To me, I’m a huge fan of people that have had to work hard against adversity and against odds to try to get there they have gotten in their careers. And I think it’s that fight in those years of working hard toward something when it’s very difficult along the way, that pays dividends at the Cup level, especially late in races when you’re sitting in good equipment.

“Sometimes you see these guys that on a green-white-checkered and they have to top the field for their first win, which is one of the most difficult things to do in all of racing. But it’s more than just those two laps. That driver has to dig down into everything he’s fought for in that moment to deliver. And Ross has that personality profile. He’s delivered, like I said earlier. You want somebody who knows how to win. And winning is a talent that’s independent of how fast you can go over a couple of laps, how well you can quality, what your feedback is like. There’s a talent to winning. And it’s so hard to win in the Cup Series. Now, in this playoff-era, you want guys that you know if you build a company around them, put cars underneath them, and people behind him that give them the opportunity to win, that they’re going to go and do that job. Ross and Daniel have both proven that when they’ve been in those situations, they can deliver. The rest we can build around them.

“Ross is a young, aggressive driver that we believe has the talent to win races at the Cup Series level. We think his personality and work ethic will fit perfectly with Daniel as we build our organization for the 2022 season and beyond.”

The “beyond” thing is crucial here because this is a multi-year deal now. It’s the job security that Chastain has dreamed up since joining this sport. He feels like he now has the future of his team shored up and while teams are getting younger in doing so, a 29 year old (Suarez) and 28 year old (Chastain) can be good for the next 10+ years he feels.

Marks said that he’s happy to do this for his drivers and feels the security of having your future not hanging in flux can bring the best out in people.

Suarez, had jumped around teams year after year in going from Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 to Stewart-Haas in 2019 to Gaunt Brothers in 2020 and now Trackhouse this year. The team gave him a multi year deal for job security too as this is very important to Marks to be able to give.

Suárez has exceeded expectations for a first-year team posting a top-five and three top-10s in 22 races. He has led 74 laps.

“I am very happy with the selection of Ross as a teammate next year,” said Suárez. “He brings a lot to the table. I am looking forward to start working with him and making our two Trackhouse cars as fast as possible. I know we are going to win races.”

Marks also feels like the best years are yet to come for Chastain too as he says that he feels like he has at least a decade of greatness ahead of him. He’s the future of this team he notes.

“That was one of the things that I was really happy to do with Ross because he’s not been in a position where he’s had a ton of job security in his life, or he’s had a team come to him and say you’re a big part of our future and we want to build around you,” Marks said. “Ross has got 15 years of competitive Cup racing ahead of him in his career and we want to be the ones to step up and tell him and this is what I told him on the phone when I called him and said this ride is yours if you want it and the fact that, we are building this team around you. And that means orchestrating our work force around Ross, supporting him, and giving him all the tools that he needs to be successful in the Cup Series and win races and to put these Trackhouse cars in the Playoffs. And I think having some job security and being able to put a contract in front of him that’s a multi-year contract is going to let him exhale a little bit after fighting for his life for 10 years and say this is my home and I’m ready to get to work. And that was an important part for Trackhouse.”

Today’s announcement also has Chastain focused on a bright future.

“This is another dream come true for me,” said Chastain. “Trackhouse is one of the most interesting organizations in the garage. The enthusiasm they bring off the track and the program they are building on the track is exciting. Working with Daniel and Justin, however I can, is my number one priority. I know that I can help build our Chevrolets to be as strong as possible.

“It’s indescribable. It is a relief. But it’s really been since we knew this was going to happen, a pretty short time ago, maybe it changes now that it’s public and everybody knows, but it’s really been like okay now it’s like taking a breath. But I can’t change how I do things. This is what got me here. I just don’t have to go take everything I don’t have to take in. So that’s what I’ve been trying to work on this year is just a different mentality on my race craft and what goes through my head, both pre-race and also, during the race. When Justin said that when we were talking, it’s indescribable, what that means. I really have even struggled to tell Justin what it means to me that he would not only say that but to truly put it down and put it on paper.”

In his brief Cup career of 101 races, Chastain has driven for Premium Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, and Roush Fenway Racing before he was signed to a full-time ride driving the No. 42 Camaro with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021. In 22 races this season, driving what is considered the best ride so far in his young career, Chastain has posted two top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, and seven top 10s.

Before his Cup Series career, Chastain scored two career victories in the Xfinity series (Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2018 and Daytona International Speedway in 2019) and four wins in the Camping World Truck series.

As to why the No. 1 and not the No. 42, Marks says it’s a good strategy to have the lowest number and highest numbers on the track. Both Chastain and Marks have each won in the 42 car, but the change to the No. 1 was something they both felt would work longterm too in terms of being a business decision.

“In some ways it’s really important because that’s what people talk about,” he said. “But in some ways, you’re also focused on things that make race cars go fast, too. But for us, it’s always been important since day one at Trackhouse to build a real racing brand that’s bigger than any one person or any one person’s history with the manufacturer and the number or anything like that. Ross and I have both won in the No. 42. That’s not lost on me. The No. 42 has a great lineage in this sport. But we just really loved the idea of having the No. 99 and the No. 1, of having the highest number and the lowest number and the opportunities to brand a company around that and the uniqueness of that. And so that was exciting for us. I’ve always loved the No. 1. It’s got a history and we can start a new era with that number and put the Trackhouse brand behind it and Ross can grow with it, so that really kind of was a business decision.”

Also, the No. 1 that has visited victory lane 22 times in Cup racing history too. The first win for the No. 1 came when Lloyd Dane won at Portland (Ore.) Speedway in 1956. Jamie McMurray, Donnie Allison and Billy Wade each have four wins driving the No. 1. Kurt Busch has three wins including the most recent victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July. Steve Park owns two wins while Dane, Eddie Gray, Paul Lewis, David Pearson and Martin Truex Jr. each own one victory driving the No. 1.

Chastain plans to add his name to that list.

“The opportunity we have in front of us is almost hard to comprehend. But I know that our group is ready for the challenge of elevating ourselves to reach our goals” he said. “I honestly couldn’t be much happier than I am right now and expect that to carry on through next year and into the future. This is a great opportunity and I’m ready to keep working.”

Plus, with having lost a full car in the 42, he feels like both of his cars will have full funding in 2022 with not one race left unsold.

Trackhouse Racing, a division of Trackhouse Entertainment Group, was founded in 2020 by Marks, who established the company’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. In October of 2020, Trackhouse announced it would field the No. 99 in the NASCAR Cup Series with Suárez. Trackhouse Racing formed an operational alliance with legendary Richard Childress Racing and the team operates out of Welcome, North Carolina. In January of 2021, Trackhouse announced Armando Christian Perez (a.k.a. Pitbull) as a co-owner and transcendent ambassador.

Marks announced in June that his Nashville-based Trackhouse Entertainment Group had purchased Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operation. The transfer of all of Ganassi’s NASCAR assets to Trackhouse Racing will be completed immediately following the final NASCAR Cup Series race on Nov. 7, 2021.

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