THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the race winner, Ross Chastain.
If you have question for Ross, raise your hand.
Q. Weird question. You raced Blaney hard. You’re racing for the win. What is your mindset there? Does any of it play into beyond I want to win this race, I’m a Chevy guy, he’s a Ford guy?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Absolutely, yeah. It was in every shot, every corner, every throttle application, every brake input, every downshift, upshift, all parts of the lap.
I was not going to crash him. I was not going to use my front bumper, side fenders, anything. Dirty air? Different story. Yeah, I’m going to. I’m going to keep the lead because that’s everything.
Before the second to last run I thought we had him covered. Coming to the end of stage two, the 17 drove by me. Made some adjustments. Got too loose, we were too tight, too loose, too tight again when Blaney and the 19 right there when the last caution came out.
I asked Phil and our group to please let me turn better, make the car turn better without giving up any rear grip.
He got by me one time, was not going to run him up, pinch him up. Yeah, I know he’s mad and I don’t care. I do not care. I did not care then, I do not care now. I’m here to race him. I’m not going to wreck him. I gave him the bottom most times. One time I was inside of him after he got by me. I crossed back over into three and I made sure to wrap the bottom. I’m not going to slide up and pinch him at all. It’s in my mind the entire time, for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Anger. He gets angry. It’s okay. I’ve known him for a decade. I could see him moving around in the car. The car’s going straight. I could see his colorful suit and gloves. I didn’t see apparently there was — I was number one, I don’t know. I could see, like, movement when I checked the camera. I was like, Oh, he is angry.
Yeah, the caution came out and we made the right adjustment and were able to drive away. Yeah, it’s nothing other than wanting to win and hold track position. He could run second and win the championship. He did it last year. He can do it again. He ultimately did it.
Q. Were you surprised, given everything that was at stake for him, he’s running in the back of you, forcing the issue? Is he always that aggressive? Were you expecting that?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, no, I didn’t expect him to throttle up down one and two and drive square into me. These cars allow that. He didn’t care about the 19. Probably just as soon the 19 went over me. I don’t know.
Yes. Unexpected. That last caution couldn’t come out at a better time. I was so thankful. Didn’t account for guys on two tires. Didn’t expect to be second row. Thought I would be front row no matter what.
Not surprised by it because it’s him and he does that. These cars allow that. They allow inconsequential hits. But they also don’t affect the front car as much. I slid, but I was able to hold the lead.
Q. The ethos of this race for the non-Championship 4 guys has been racing with mittens, as Steve Letarte would say. That’s why we’ve had nine consecutive winners that were champions until you. You said you were proud of winning this race because it’s never been done before. Did you also set a new standard for how to race the Championship 4? Are you proud of that as well?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I’m proud that we won. I watched practice back yesterday morning, Saturday morning. I heard Dale Earnhardt Jr. say, Ross will be one, get up and race these guys. I paused it. I’m like, Would I do that? I don’t know. That seems kind of aggressive. I clicked it. I didn’t really have an answer for myself. I asked myself would I race them. I was like, I’ll race ’em. He’s like, He’s going to race ’em aggressive, he’s going to do it. If there is anybody that will do it, he’ll do it. Whatever he said.
I don’t know. Kind of undetermined. Then I got out there and I was like, I’m doing it, I am racing them. The difference was I’m not going to use my front bumper, front fenders, side. I’m not going to pinch them up into the wall. I didn’t mean to fence Larson at Darlington, but I did it. I was not going to do that. I was not going to drive into the corner.
When he cleared me down into one, I’m not going to try to, like, make it anything other than cross him over and do it clean, have leverage into three, wrap the bottom. It worked. I was like, Holy cow. He passed me, he’s faster, but I got right back by him. I don’t think he led the lap.
Yeah, in my mind the whole time, proud of the precision driving we all did. The only contact was him just in a moment of anger throttling up in one to two and drive square up into my back bumper. Other than that, no contact. That’s what I’m here to do.
Q. Ending this year on a high note, do you think of what could have been if the years were reversed and you were in the Championship 4? Does it make that any easier coming out of here with a win knowing it’s possible if you get to the Championship 4 again?
ROSS CHASTAIN: For me it’s an evolution of Trackhouse and GM with this car, right? It’s year two. We finished up year two with this car. We came out so fast last year. We found it in the last Charlotte oval test, then we came out to road courses, everywhere, we won on road courses, superspeedways. We didn’t win on the oval last year. We won this year. We sustained that level of competition.
We’ve had our fair share of eighth-place days, 18th-place days, sometimes 22nd-place days, straight up.
Yeah, it’s just a continuation, and we’re staying here. We’re not going away. Like, we’re disruptive on track usually by my driving, but it goes with the disruptiveness of Justin and Pitbull and our leadership team doing things different, having a real presence in Nashville, keeping a presence there on Broadway for something outside of Charlotte and Concord and the Lake Norman area. Our shop’s in Concord, all of our employees are there except for Justin and the brain trust of the marketing side.
Yeah, I just love that we’re staying here and we’re continuing to be fast. Our processes are working. We trust ’em and we continue to see it through.
Q. I hope my question is not too personal. I was confused at the podium ceremony after your race and your winning. You smashed a watermelon. Can you explain why?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yes. Last time we talked was at this podium, I was excited about the future. Obviously it didn’t come to fruition (smiling).
I guess I was up here last year for championship stuff. I’m having flashbacks of that day. Good to have you back.
I’m an eighth-generation watermelon farmer. Anytime I can put agriculture on a bright-light stage like this with these incredibly bright lights, as you guys go in and out of focus for me, it’s what I want to do.
We’re a small part of the 1% that’s in charge of feeding the other 99% of us that rely on farmers to eat every day. If it’s smashing a watermelon on the frontstretch, then in Victory Lane, it’s just to shine a bright line and promote agriculture and hopefully win on Sunday, sell on Monday, we sell some watermelons tomorrow.
My platform is incredible. Obviously we have our corporate partners at Trackhouse, to be able to put on my car. Then I also get to do what I want. It’s my life. It’s my career. It’s my platform. So something like bringing farmers to the racetrack next year starting at the Daytona 500 with our Ag to Asphalt program is a simple way for me that I can tell farmers thank you, let them enter on agtoasphalt.com, and they can come enjoy the races.
We had a Bayer Seminis Seedway guy with his kid this weekend. That kid had never been to a race. That kid is hooked. The same way with other farmers that will be here next year. I want to promote what my family has done in a very long time.
Most of the families in the room, if you go back far enough, all of y’all your families farmed at some point. They were smart enough to get out of it. There were not some good days, my grandfather remembers it. For my dad’s generation and my generation are better days. I believe it’s the good old days. Promoting agriculture is top of mind for me.
Smashing is what I do. I’m going to keep doing it for hopefully a really long time.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: That’s right. That’s right. The crowd, I was a little worried that they might be focused on Blaney. I went down to three and four where NASCAR wanted me to go, and I did a burnout by him. We did burnouts by each other. Pretty cool. I was worried we were going to run into each other.
The reaction was just as strong as the other wins. I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud that people see how much I care whenever we win.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Every race there’s one right inside the hauler.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Look, yeah, we’ve had a bit of a rough patch. It’s been in there a bit. Watermelon never tastes as sweet as it does in Victory Lane. I’m going to gnaw this thing all the way down.
Q. You described how you were personally racing Blaney, going for the win, you didn’t care that he was racing for a championship. How would you describe Blaney’s race style, this race or previous competitions?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Maybe I said it wrong earlier. I do care. I care, arguably, out there more than anybody because I was not going to put him in a position to damage his car in any way, put his car in a bad spot, other than keep him behind me. As long as he’s behind me, that’s all I cared about.
We’re all different. He reacts physically in the car. I mean, he says stuff on the radio, for sure. I just have known him, that you can see him. Bright neon yellow, so you can see it easily.
Yeah, I think that I — I believe that I cared arguably more than him. He didn’t have to pass me to win the championship. He could stay right there. There was no other competitor for points within any sight of me. It was the 19, the 12 and the 1, third, second, first.
Yeah, I’d say I cared more than anybody as long as he was running second. He didn’t need to run first. He didn’t run first last year. His teammate won. Now he could run second again and win the championship.
Q. How difficult was it to just run pretty much from yellow line to the wall today? You were on the bottom, the top, fending off all those guys in the different lanes.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, the track changed a lot. We had speed all weekend, we knew that. As we moved around in the race, when I started the first run, I could see the people in front of me moving up. I moved up with Harvick, a few of the guys.
By the way, that was incredible to race with him like that, restarts, side by side with him in his last race. I actually got a little emotional in the car. I was looking over.
We were coming to the restart, I’m warming my tires, I’m like, Don’t feel sorry for him, go pass him, it’s a race. I drove off into turn one, was able to get the lead.
Yeah, we would start on the bottom, then I asked, once I had the lead, had the front couple spots when they were moving up, when guys were moving up off the bottom, and Brandon and Phil were giving me updates when half the field was up there.
Yeah, our car was versatile. I could go places. I could place it a little half turn of brake bias to tighten me up as we went through the run. Yeah, I could place it and still make speed.
There’s been times here at Phoenix with this group, our first race here in the 42 car in 2021, was my first race with Phil Surgen and my engineers. We were the slowest car into turn one by far. I couldn’t get in the corner, I had to slow down. I’d argue there wasn’t many people faster than us today and I could place it where I wanted to.
Q. What is it like to put an exclamation point on the season with what you did today?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Indescribable. It’s honestly hard to put into words what this means, what winning in Cup feels like. I cannot describe it. I cannot describe the ripple effects this will have going into the off-season, preparing for next year.
Justin Marks hired me, Trackhouse hired me. Justin knew who I was. I’ve wrecked Justin Marks in the Xfinity races before. Daniel Suarez has wrecked Justin Marks in the Xfinity Series races before. He knew who he was hiring when he put us behind the wheels of his two cars.
Through all the stuff, he stayed with us. There was definitely public stuff that I wouldn’t have said, but he’s my boss and he gets to say it. He owns the team. I got to be the employee at that point. As an independent contractor, I have to listen to what he says if I want to drive the car.
Y’all got to watch that. Y’all got to watch me learn through that process. Our sport is incredibly invasive for professional and personal things that people say if they say them publicly, which y’all will put a microphone in front of us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if we would allow it.
It is so, so good to end this season with all the stuff, right? The best way I can describe it, just a lot of stuff. That’s Cup racing. I’m going to make mistakes. They knew that hiring me. Through the good days of winning and the bad days of crashing out going for wins, spinning people out, ultimately they’re there for me. This is a great way to go enjoy the off-season.
Q. I asked William and Kyle earlier about the future of the sport. Is it exciting for you knowing that you will potentially be in this group?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yes, to say my name next to guys like Kyle Larson, it’s hard for me to believe it. It’s hard for me to understand it, comprehend it. Early last year we won at COTA. We walked back in the shop, the shop that was CGR, the shop I had been at for so many good things, getting the job, winning the Xfinity race. And it’s all gone. Now I’m the third Cup driver in 77 with Spire.
For those win parties, I had a little bit of like impostor syndrome or something. I didn’t really believe it. I’m having a little bit of it now when you look long-term when you say I’m going to be competing. That’s pretty wild.
Yeah, I feel like we’re going to celebrate this. We have no racing. I think my next race now is Speed Fest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in January. I have some time to celebrate but a lot of work to do. There were a lot of tracks this year I did not show up, me personally, giving my best effort just from a gas and brake and steering perspective of things. Worked a lot on Phoenix over the last few months. I put that into action today. Together with the car being incredibly good, you saw that.
So yeah, I don’t really know how to comprehend that maybe in a couple years we’re still doing this. I’m human. I go back to my past. I’ve had things taken away that were a sure bet. I thought it was a one-direction all the way up the mountain. Had to go find another mountain to climb. We found it, we’re climbing it.
I feel as long as I get up, do my best, put my work in, go to work and surround myself with good people, trust our processes, yeah, we’ll see.
THE MODERATOR: Ross, congratulations. Enjoy the off-season.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Y’all, too.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports