PLYMOUTH, Wis.—Ross Chastain was testing the wheel force Next Gen car for Chevrolet at Dover International Speedway on Wednesday when the news broke that Chip Ganassi Racing was being sold.
Chastain received a text approximately two hours prior to the press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Initially, he thought someone was joking. Needless to say, Chastain, who is in his first season behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevy, was blown away by the announcement.
After racing in NASCAR’s top three tours and finally believing he had found some stability in his career, Chastain was shocked by Ganassi’s decision to sell his organization to Trackhouse Racing.
“I literally bet myself last year that going with the team that’s been here for 20 years—that’s going to be here for 20 years more—that’s the internal talk I had with myself, then to get that news Wednesday and I was like, ‘Wow!’ I would have never—nobody would have seen that coming,” Chastain said. “Chip didn’t see that coming. It was instant—I wanted to throw up—on Wednesday.”
Instead, Chastain threw himself into the task at hand—testing the new car. He continued to drive the car as hard as it would go and simply tried to appreciate the opportunity in front of him. After three days of shaking down the new car, Chastain was encouraged with what he felt.
“By Wednesday, we were really close to the current car feel-wise,” Chastain said. “It’s a little slower, a little less power than what we had at Dover and just less grip overall. But little things like steering wasn’t quite keeping up with corner exit, so I was manually steering. I told them, ‘I couldn’t make it 400 laps. I won’t make it. So we found in the data that the power steering wasn’t keeping up, so they’ll go back and tweak it and make it better.
“But starting out Monday, the level of commitment far exceeded the level of traction and I almost crashed on Lap 1—and we just had to tighten the car up. It’s just normal stuff…It’s still a race car. It’s just a totally different design. The springs and shocks all work different but it’s still people being people and people working on race cars.”
Some reports from Dover included extreme heat in the cockpit. Chastain verified the intel, describing the atmosphere as “hot."
“For me, the biggest thing was the radiator air coming out of the hood scoops and the louvers there were coming around the A-posts of the windshield,” Chastain said. “It’s hot enough in the car, after a 20-lap run, I went to put my hand out, and the air outside of the window net is hotter than what’s inside. Normally, you see our hands stick out—and that’s for a little cooling—and it was too hot. You cannot hold your hand out there. So hopefully, we redirect that somewhere else.”
Chastain has discussed the team's purchase with both Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks and Ty Norris, President, Trackhouse Racing. He’s also had ample talks with his crew chief Phil Surgen and others on the No. 42 crew during dinner the last few nights and added the news has “brought the No. 42 team closer together.”
“Some questions aren’t ready to be answered yet,” Chastain said. “I think that’s the case here. There are way more questions than answers.”
When asked about himself and Kurt Busch leading the list of potential candidates for the second seat at Trackhouse Racing, Chastain said with a laugh, “Way to light a fire under us. Crackin’ the whip here.No, I know Justin. From my very first truck race was taking over the truck that he had run the first half of the year. We bought his LaJoie seats from him that year. I got to NASCAR and had nothing.
“We kept up over the years. I’ve gone to him for road course advice, race team advice—he knew the Ganassi group so when I was signing there in 2018, I went to him. So, I’ve talked to him. So there truly are no answers—which isn’t a great feeling for me, but once I got home Wednesday night and I laid down, I was like, ‘I can’t change it. It wouldn’t change anything if I knew a week ago. I wouldn’t drive any different. I’d still crashed both cars at Pocono. I would still make the same mistakes.
“I wanted to come to Road America and put a better foot forward just a little bit better than I was last week.”