Three races remain in the NASCAR season. 1 each for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series. 4 drivers in each series will vie to become champion in their respective division and by doing so, they likely will have to win their season finale race in the process.
So, with the 12 drivers in the NASCAR garage that can take home a title, who’s the best story for each series?
Has to be Ty Majeski, right? The 28-year-old has taken a different path to the Truck Series than most. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to show up and race in this series which is why to have a driver in his upper 20’s still fighting for a title in his first full season is a breath of fresh air.
Majeski grew up in Wisconsin and notched his first career win in any racing form on his 10th birthday. He tore up the Wisconsin race tracks. When he branched out of the state, he drew the eye of Michael and Darrell Waltrip’s brother who tried to lure the Majeski’s down to North Carolina to be near NASCAR’s base. He felt like that would further his career, but the family didn’t want to leave the Badger State.
He would instead make a career out of Late Models before wanting to eventually branch out on his own and finally move to North Carolina in 2017. He was 22 at the time and was hired on as an engineer with Roush. That decision led him to a role in driving for Cunningham Motorsports part-time in ARCA and making a few select starts in the Xfinity Series for Roush Fenway Racing.
He ran three races in Xfinity in 2017 and 12 more in 2018. With RFR closing shop on their Xfinity Series after that 2018 year, Majeski decided to go back down to race some more in ARCA and make a return also to his Late Model. He thrived in doing so and for 2020, his first full-time season was coming in NASCAR. This time it was with Niece in the Truck Series.
He ran 15 races, before being replaced. He wasn’t full-time anymore.
He did show up in 2021 as a part-time driver for ThorSport. He also returned to the ARCA Midwest Tour too and won the 2021 championship. It was his 5th which was a record in that series. This role led ThorSport to wanting Majeski full-time.
So this season, a full-time ride was his. However, he moved to North Carolina in 2017, remember? ThorSport operates out of Ohio. They’re one of the few teams that don’t reside in North Carolina. Majeski wanted to be near the team shop so the owners found him some housing near them while Majeski searched for a place to stay in Sandusky, Ohio.
In the process, he made the playoffs. Then in the playoffs, he won his first career race. Then his second. Those wins led him to a Championship 4 appearance.
Now he’s here with a shot at a title on Friday night.
The best story here has to be Josh Berry. In a crowded field that includes Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs, to be able to compete with them for a title is saying something.
See, Berry, like Majeski, is an anomaly in today’s NASCAR. In this day-and-age, drivers getting chances to move through the ranks aren’t much removed from passing a drivers license test. It’s all about the youth, especially at this level.
So for Berry, to be 30 and getting a call to run some races for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series for the 2021 season was a bit of a shocker. For an organization as talented as JRM, they typically would just pluck the next young star away. Instead, for this 8 car, they chose Berry.
Berry, now 32, was doing enough on the short track scene to find his place in life. He’s a racer. Always has been. However, his right moment came twice.
Most drivers get that moment when they’re young to jump up into a Truck or Xfinity Series ride. Berry, also like Majeski, went the late model direction.
Back in 2008, he was going to school at Volunteer State Community College, racing legends cars at the Nashville Fairgrounds and working as a bank teller to fund his racing endeavors. It was online racing to which led Berry to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2 years later, Earnhardt signed Berry to race for his late model team.
While he made some moonlight ARCA, Xfinity and Truck Series starts between 2014 and 2020, it was nothing to lead him down this path. He figured his NASCAR days were just part-time appearances here and there.
Then 2021 happened. He was signed on to drive for 12 races. However, he did so well, they worked out a way to keep him longer.
Berry won in just his 6th start that season. He had 5 top 10’s in the first 9 races including 3 of the 5 in the top 2. 12 races turned to 22 which included another win in the playoff race at Las Vegas. That spiraled into a full season for 2022. Now, here he is with a shot at a championship on the line.
Berry’s 2nd straight playoff win in Las Vegas put him here. This time he was playoff eligible to use it to his benefit. Following an up and down regular season, Berry has went on a terror this playoffs with a top 8 in 4 of the 6 races including 7 of the last 9.
He finished 3rd in Phoenix back in March and has a strong capability to make the 2nd straight feel good Xfinity Series champion.
Last year Daniel Hemric took the title after scoring his 1st career NASCAR win in his 208th start. He won in a thrilling photo finish with Austin Cindric.
Can this year be Berry’s moment?
Another wrinkle to this is that he went to school with two-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion Josef Newgarden. They were classmates in middle school and now more than a decade later, two students from the same school in suburb of Nashville can be champions in racing.
No one other than Ross Chastain here. From a watermelon farmer just racing to make ends meet to the Championship 4, it has been a wild journey for this Florida native. Chastain was showing up and racing for underfunded teams for most of his early career. Then in late 2017, he had a decision to make. Run full-time in cars that would be 10th-15th on a good day, or take that same money for a 3-race deal with a top level team. He chose the path to bet on himself.
It was a massive risk. By driving for underfunded teams, your hopes are to do well enough to hope you catch the eye of these bigger organizations. There’s no real big risk. But when you get the rare opportunity that Chastain had with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, the risk was huge. If he flops in these three races, then he’d never get another opportunity again. If you can’t win with a team like Ganassi, then who could you win with?
He started on the pole and led the most laps in his first race with them. He won the second race and was second in the third one. Ganassi saw enough to want more so they convinced their sponsor, DC Solar, to fund Chastain for the entire 2019 season on the Xfinity level.
This was his big break. Until it wasn’t. DC Solar was caught in a federal investigation and indited. The sponsor was gone, the ride was too. Ganassi couldn’t field a car without a sponsor and this was a few months before the next season was to start. With most top rides now filled, Chastain had no where to go again.
So he went back to the smaller team at JD Motorsports while then getting some opportunities with Kaulig Racing. He also raced full-time in the Truck Series for Niece as well as full time in Cup with Premium Motorsports who was one of the smallest teams out there. It was his way to keep his name in front of people. Race as much as he could for anywhere he could get a shot to do so.
The role with Kaulig was part-time for a team that was up-and-coming. Chastain gave them their first career win however that July at Daytona. This was his moment that stood out that maybe this guy was pretty good after all. With Niece, he won three times and landed in the Championship 4 for that smaller team.
He was turning newer teams into winners and had already proven when given a shot with a bigger team, he could win with them too.
So for 2020, Kaulig gave Chastain a full-time shot. He’d also fill-in with Roush Fenway Racing for the three races Ryan Newman missed. Then COVID hit. Just when he thought the path was trending up again, a pandemic settles in.
The season was paused.
When it resumed, Chastain picked up where he left off. 2020 was winless, but he made the Xfinity Series playoffs. What more could he do? He was back at a crossroads. Would he just be a really good Xfinity Series driver now would his Cup shot open back up?
Kyle Larson used a racial slur on Easter Night in 2020. It led to his dismal from Ganassi. Instead of Ganassi bringing Chastain in to replace him, they chose Matt Kenseth. That was a short-term solution. The 42 ride was gone in the Xfinity Series but now available in Cup.
Ganassi remembered what Chastain was about and brought him up. This was his break. Chastain was a Cup Series driver with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Unfortunately, the roller coaster was reaching another hill and another fall was coming. Ganassi, which wasn’t for sale, received an offer too good to refuse to where Trackhouse Racing bought everything. A new team for 2021 purchased both cars, both charters, the building, etc.
The 2021 season was Chastain’s first and last for Ganassi. They would hand the keys over to Trackhouse once the season ended. Here we go again Chastain felt.
Luckily, he did enough to where Justin Marks, co-owner of Trackhouse, wanted to keep him. Kurt Busch was his Ganassi teammate but already moving onto 23XI Racing. Daniel Suarez was driving for the 2021 single car team at Trackhouse and by becoming a two-car team, they had an opening and they wanted Chastain to just stay.
He did. But how much could a second-year team do in NASCAR’s premiere series?
A lot it turned out. Three races in he finished third. It was at Las Vegas of all places. The spot of his breakthrough win with Ganassi in 2018. He then came home runner-up in the next two weeks after. Was this real?
It was. He won the next race at COTA. A Cup win and the first for Trackhouse. He’d win again four races later in Talladega and on the heels of three straight top five finishes in the Round of 8, Chastain is in the Championship 4.
What a wild story this would be for him to win the championship in Year 1 with them… A watermelon farmer who’s had every door open get slammed in his face prematurely, found the right door in the right spot and could end up a NASCAR champion.