Ross Chastain has spent much of his young career overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations.
However, the 29-year-old Floridian’s singular clutch move to qualify for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix Raceway wasn’t even an expectation, it was a once-an-era moment that will undoubtedly go down in NASCAR lore. And Chastain himself, still can’t help but smile when he talks about it.
His last lap, last-ditch effort to make his first title field is one of the most talked-about, tweeted-about, replayed moves in recent history. With less than one lap to go at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last Sunday, he purposely slammed his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet hard into the outside wall, floored the gas and “walled” his way from the 10th position to finish fifth place – enough to secure the final Playoff transfer into Sunday’s Championship Race.
This week Chastain said he’s heard from people he hasn’t talked to in years, or ever before. His phone is full of voicemails, and he counted a thousand text messages. Team co-owner, Grammy Award-winning superstar Pitbull called too.
“He checks in, more than just for the wins and good races,” Chastain said of Pitbull. “He loves it that we’re up against some real giants in the sports and we keep fighting and we keep winning. Not that we won the race in Martinsville, but we won the moment to transfer, and he was really excited.”
Chastain said he has looked back at the video and still cannot explain the physics of his move, “what happened, why that car did not slow down, why it kept air in the tires,” – how he made it to the finish line and actually set a new track record.
“Why it worked, I don’t know, but I have no ideas, no plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant,” he said.
“I’m proud of it, I’m proud we’ve moved the needle for fans and casual people that were not fans and now they want to experience NASCAR and come to track and feel that roar that thunder when we go by,” Chastain said, noting how members from other teams came out to congratulate him and give him back slaps when came down pit road after the race.
Chastain is optimistic about his title hopes this weekend. His best finish in eight starts is a runner-up showing this Spring. He is having a breakout year with the second year old Trackhouse organization scoring his first two career NASCAR Cup Series wins (at Circuit of The Americas and Talladega-1). He has a career high 20 top-10 finishes and led a career high 692 laps.
“It’s wild because in, like, the same breath I can get excited for what we’ve accomplished and scared to death about what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “It’s so cool that I’m getting to experience this. I’m so lucky and blessed to get to feel this for a race. It’s all for a race on Sunday, one afternoon.
“Yeah, I have taken some time to look, but obviously it’s been full focus on Phoenix and prep. It’s just another race, so it’s just like any other week. For better or worse, you’ve got to turn it off. You have to turn it off at some point. That got turned off.
“But you can’t open social media without seeing it. It’s like, Dang it. I just want to see what these guys are saying today and I still see my stuff popping up, so…
“We’re just living in the moment, though.”