Top 50 Drivers of 2022
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Top 50 Drivers of 2022

Autosport 2022 Top 50: #20 Ross Chastain

Breakout NASCAR Cup seasons don’t get any bigger than this: Chastain wasn’t even sure that he’d have a ride in 2022 after Trackhouse bought Chip Ganassi Racing – but new team boss Justin Marks put his faith in him, and Chastain paid him back handsomely.

After starting the season with full funding for only the first 10 races, he delivered three top threes before his maiden Cup win at COTA in round six. He won race 10 too, at Talladega, and soon had sponsors doubling up on the #1 car!

He sealed second in points at Phoenix, only after the wild Martinsville wall ride that made him an internet sensation.

Insight: How an underdog NASCAR team flipped the script for success

Chastain’s remarkable emergence as a NASCAR star

Since the days of Jim Clark there probably hasn’t been an elite-level driver who identifies as a farmer, yet here we are in 2022 with Ross Chastain, runner-up in NASCAR’s Cup Series, being proud to call himself an ‘eighth-generation melon farmer’.

Racing a go-kart around the farmhouse was what set him on the road to motorsport stardom, and he leant on his family business for the financial support to race locally. He then attracted support from the melon farming community as he rose into NASCAR’s ranks, but what marked Chastain out from his early days was his willingness to race any vehicle, anywhere. He famously got on a Greyhound bus to get to Eldora to race his Truck; he even supplemented his income by driving Spire Motorsports’ RV to races.

Martinsville wall-ride that secured Playoff final berth propelled Chastain into the spotlight, after some impressive performances earlier in the year

Martinsville wall-ride that secured Playoff final berth propelled Chastain into the spotlight, after some impressive performances earlier in the year

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“Point blank, I’m still paying my dad back, and I will probably for the foreseeable future,’ says Chastain. “He sacrificed so much to put me in race cars coming up through the ranks and then went out to people that he knew, and that our family knew, and we leveraged a lot of relationships.

“We didn’t own a team, we didn’t know what we were doing. We spent a lot of our own money to get here. And it’s not talked about enough in this sport because it’s kind of the ugly truth, that you have to sacrifice a lot. But I feel as privileged coming up as any other kid or guy or girl that has like a direct family tie to a team. I think it could have went wrong for them just as much as it could have went wrong for me.

“It’s not like it’s just because I was a good race car driver that I got here. I had a lot of people, mainly in the agriculture industry, support me because they knew me and they knew my family. So I’m forever grateful for that. This is what built my family, we’re proud of it.”

And how about that celebration of smashing a watermelon when he wins races?

“When I smashed my first watermelon at the track, I was afraid my family might be upset that I’d wasted it,” he says. “My grandad, he said ‘I loved it’. And I’m like ‘really?’ And he said, ‘People in another country might see that, and go buy one’.”

Will be seeing more watermelons destroyed in the coming years?

Will be seeing more watermelons destroyed in the coming years?

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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