Ross Chastain is still smiling wide

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 01: Ross Chastain speaks with the media prior to the NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration at the Music City Center on December 02, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Even in the immediate moments after Ross Chastain finished out the 2022 championship finale – finishing runner-up to new NASCAR Cup Series champ Joey Logano in the race – the 29-year-old Floridian insisted he was absolutely thrilled with the season.

The driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet earned his first two career NASCAR Cup Series victories (at Circuit of The Americas and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway) and was a legitimate championship threat the entire season from Daytona to Phoenix.

And, when he had to do something drastic to earn one of only four championship berths in the Phoenix title race, Chastain performed a move on the last half of the last lap at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to take that position. Still needing to make up positions on the final lap, he turned his Chevy into the outside wall and floored it – riding the wall and passing five cars to earn the final Playoff transfer position by a single-point over veteran Denny Hamlin and setting a track record in his wake.

Although Logano dominated the season finale en route to his second series title, Chastain secured career-highs in wins (2), top-fives (15) and top-10s (21). He led 692 laps in 2022 after leading only 76 laps in his previous five years racing in the series.

It all made for quite the “Cinderella story” for a young driver in his first year with a competitive team in NASCAR’s premier series – a racer from tiny Alva, Florida where his family operates a watermelon farm starring on the world stage.

Yet, Chastain said with a smile Thursday, his return home to his Florida farm property in the weeks immediately after the season was a lot less glamorous than many would have expected. He acknowledged, however, his work in 2022 raised the interest level of those he grew up with and has absolutely gained a lot of fans thanks to his performance all season and certainly with his “Martinsville Miracle.”

Chastain was with his younger brother Chad Chastain at a race recently – helping work on the car and then spotting for Chad during the race. He said he appreciated the number of people approaching him for attaboys and handshakes even if he had to remind them, he was working the race. He still hasn’t had a chance to read or even answer all the texts he’s received post-Martinsville.

Back at home in rural Southwestern Florida, however, Chastain is afforded the chance to relax and take it all in.

“It’s just home so people that I know were just like, great season, let’s go to lunch,” Chastain recalled with a smile. “Nothing too crazy. They want to talk about Martinsville and talk a little about the win at COTA and Talladega, but pretty normal. It’s the most normal of any place I go.”

 

Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service
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