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Meet up with Ross Chastain, ‘just a watermelon farmer’ driving NASCAR’s No. 42 automobile subsequent yr

Chip Ganassi Racing created a long-awaited announcement Monday morning in which the crew named Ross Chastain as the driver of its No. 42 Chevrolet for the 2021 season.

The shift was not absolutely out of remaining discipline considering the fact that Chastain’s experienced a romance with the Ganassi organization considering that 2018, in which he gained the pole posture, received a race and completed in next position in the 3 Xfinity functions he ran for CGR that yr.

Nonetheless, the 27-yr-previous has just five wins in NASCAR’s lower level sequence and beat out other whole-time Cup drivers for the coveted 42 seat, which was also supplied to Bubba Wallace this 12 months right before Wallace declared he would depart his Richard Petty Motorsports staff following the 2020 season.

Chastain, who races comprehensive-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Sequence, said he appreciates he has big footwear to fill as Ganassi’s substitute for major Cup motorists Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.

“Of system I’m anxious,” Chastain said. “I’m not gonna lie to you.”

The eighth era watermelon farmer will have new teammates to lean on for the changeover, nevertheless. Chastain mentioned he designs to faucet on the awareness of championship motorists and CGR teammate Kurt Busch in the No. 1 Cup vehicle and Jimmie Johnson, who will run IndyCar races for the corporation following time.

Chastain even gained an unexpected text from Johnson this morning: “He stated, ‘Hey male, congratulations! I guess this implies we’re teammates.”

Chastain spoke with The Observer on the afternoon of the most significant information in his NASCAR career about smashing watermelons in Victory Lane, texting Johnson and how he programs to juggle building an Xfinity championship operate when making ready to start in the Cup Sequence as NASCAR’s following No. 42 driver.

This interview has been evenly edited for brevity and clarity.

Alex Andrejev: Massive information for you these days. Did you go into the shop at all or have you been getting phone calls at household?

Ross Chastain: No, just preserving up my time there for ideally when it’s all a little much more regular.

AA: That would make perception. You were asked after the Xfinity race Friday if you would acknowledge a experience for Ganassi, and you claimed, ‘Of program.’ Did you know at the time individuals would be your designs?

RC: No, I did not. It came alongside one another rapidly and really lately. I realized that I desired it. Like I explained soon after the race, ‘Of study course.’ I assume each Xfinity driver and a ton of Cup motorists, a good deal of persons in this earth, would give a large amount to signal with a guy like Chip and the staff he’s constructed, and Chip has been good to me considering the fact that I initially came into the staff in 2018.

AA: How did you study you ended up getting the trip and what was your first reaction?

RC: I was speechless. It was a easy call from Chip (in excess of the weekend). He known as and obviously I had his range saved and we exchanged hellos and he mentioned, ‘I want you to drive my 42 motor vehicle.’ And I said, ‘Chip, I want to drive it.’ I did go to the store to absolutely sure up a few factors, but he acquired it all accomplished in a couple of shorter minutes.

AA: Will you have individual sponsors signing up for the workforce next yr?

RC: There’s a large amount that is even now getting figured out. The major detail was that Chip Ganassi Racing and Ross Chastain required to get the job done jointly, so we wished to explain to the world that we are doing the job together, and over and above that, the gross sales staff at Ganassi and me as perfectly, we’ll go out and try out to do the job with as a lot of partners as we can, but no ideas correct now of what, who or how.

AA: One particular of the good reasons I’m asking that is because a ton of admirers affiliate you with your Watermelon scheme in the Truck Series. Is there any likelihood we’ll see a watermelon paint plan on the 42 auto next year?

RC: I would really like it. I was privileged to travel a watermelon car or truck with AdventHealth for the Daytona 500 and the Coke 600 in No. 77 motor vehicle, which was a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports. The base of the automobile was a watermelon layout, so whenever we can incorporate watermelons into one thing … I absolutely embrace, clearly, my family members, our historical past and what puts meals on our desk, and that is watermelons. We’re receiving our fields completely ready for the spring. I have bought an uncle and cousins that have watermelon plants in the floor proper now. Just to give you a little backstory, my brother was up all night with my uncle and cousin at the subject in South Florida last evening. There was a truly undesirable very little tropical melancholy that form of popped up and swirled around our farm and just about drowned out the fall watermelon, so they were up all evening digging ditches and attempting to keep water out of the area. We have like a perimeter of filth, a dike, and it busted and drinking water came in. It was a very long evening for them, so anytime I can get the job done with and put agriculture and watermelons on one thing, I’m unquestionably all for it.

AA: You worked on that farm increasing up, correct?

RC: That is suitable. My brother and I are eight- era watermelon farmers. I live in the Charlotte-spot for NASCAR, but my household is all in South Florida. The Chastains have farmed for 12 generations. It is all that we’ve at any time identified. My dad’s grown other greens and experimented with (escalating) citrus, experimented with an orange grove, and then strike on watermelons once again, which is what the family members had normally done. So the family has just dug into watermelons for a lengthy time and we’re very pleased of it. It’s variety of our very little area of interest in the agriculture earth. There are other farmers that are even larger than us and increase a lot more, provide extra, do far more, but we do a ton and are proud of what we do.

AA: So you have this custom of smashing a watermelon in Victory Lane when you acquire a race and I’ve always questioned, like, do you just have a watermelon all around the keep track of with you?

RC: It depends. I’m not perfect. It’s been a minor all about the position, but I was definitely fortuitous for the Fourth of July Xfinity race we gained last calendar year at Daytona at my dwelling keep track of. My brother has a single motor pilot’s license and he was performing for a farmer above in South Ga, and he borrowed the farmer’s plane, flew about to Daytona the day of the Friday race and introduced in a person watermelon just to have (to smash), and if not, then to have to consume. That was the just one I was capable to smash on the frontstretch, and it meant a whole lot with how amazing it was that my 20-12 months-previous brother flies a aircraft about, and the farmer enable him have the afternoon and the subsequent day off. But sometimes I halt at a grocery retail store. When I’m out west in Phoenix, California, Texas, I don’t know people out there, so yeah, I just prevent by the grocery store on the way to the track and carry it into the garage. It is a little something that people know why I’m bringing a single in, proper? They know it is for when we get, so I’m very pleased of it. My guys get fired up. They see me walk in with a watermelon and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah. That’s correct.’ So it’s genuinely a very good morale raise for all of us.

AA: *Laughing* Alright, that’s good. Transitioning absent from watermelons, even though, you’re a staple in the Xfinity and Truck Sequence. Do you plan to retain operating events in all those sequence or will your emphasis be Cup up coming yr?

RC: Undoubtedly the concentration is the 42 automobile. I recognize what I’m up towards. I understand that not only is there the actual physical facet of these Cup races remaining lengthier, staying more durable to drive, but mentally as very well. I’m even now functioning on controlling my thoughts. I can not disguise from it, proper? I’m 27 a long time old. I nonetheless have a extensive way to go when it will come to managing my thoughts and seriously remaining in which I want to be inside my head, let by yourself what I present on T.V. or publicly on social media, whatever it is. Josh Wise is any person I perform with at Ford Racing. He was a former driver and is a driving mentor … So we’ll just talk. Like I talked with him previous night as this (news) was having prepared to occur out about how to stay focused. I have an Xfinity race this weekend to go get, and a playoff run to make in our Xfinity car or truck. This is the most significant option by far. It’s the Cup Sequence. It’s Chip Ganassi Racing. How do I equilibrium this? And we’ll just communicate by means of it and look at the positives and we also search at the negatives. There’s surely a balance to be experienced for the rest of this calendar year. I lean on Josh a ton for that and that’ll tie in with how a lot of Xfinity and Truck races I do. The target is surely on the 42 car, but I’m not declaring no, mainly because I unquestionably see the price. I think in 2019 I ran somewhere close to 77 races throughout NASCAR’s prime 3 series. Let’s just say I’m not going to do that.

AA: Do you know who will be your crew chief up coming yr? Will (No. 42 crew chief) Phil Surgen adhere all around?

RC: I really don’t know for absolutely sure. I’m the driver. There are a lot of smart persons at Chip Ganassi Racing to figure out all the facts now and guide me, but I know that 42 team is capable. I do know Phil a minimal little bit. I know a great deal of the fellas. I’ve labored with the pit crews at the 42 motor vehicle when I drove there in 2018 and both equally Chip Ganassi Racing pit crews also pit for Kaulig Racing this calendar year in the Xfinity collection. So the way it worked out is I have just one (CGR) crew this year on the No. 10 automobile and the (other CGR pit) workforce is on the No. 11 car. But I labored with the 42 team two many years in the past for all those three races, and I’ve basically worked with the jackman on the 42 car back in 2012 when I started off in the Truck Series total-time, so it’s definitely a ton of acquainted faces.

AA: It is certainly an organization you’re at ease with, but the Cup Series whole-time is a large move up. Where’s your head at in phrases of becoming “that guy” for the 42. Are you anxious?

RC: Of class I’m nervous. I’m not gonna lie to you. But 1 of the finest matters about this is that it is September 21st and we go to Daytona in February. For superior or even worse, I have time to imagine about it and time to plan. I know it won’t all go according to plan, but it is not like we’re executing this and just leaping in tomorrow. I can look at Matt (Kenseth). I can check out how this team will work jointly. Matt Kenseth is one of the finest race auto motorists which is at any time ever been in the sport. We know his wealth of information, so I’ll select that. I’ll be teammates with Kurt Busch, a winner in this activity who’s carried out so numerous matters. It’s hard to wrap my head all around that I have these fellas to lean on. And then I get a textual content from in all probability the final particular person I believed: Jimmie Johnson is now a teammate as well. He’s going to be functioning one of Chip’s IndyCars subsequent yr on the avenue programs on the road courses. He texts me like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re teammates now.’ Like, holy cow! You’ve bought men more than there like Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, who are just outstanding idols of mine even even though it is IndyCar and a lot of NASCAR folks may possibly not shell out interest. They are race motor vehicle motorists, so I’ll lean on people fellas. I’ll almost certainly bug them, but it’s some thing that I’m searching forward to just immersing myself as considerably into this thing. But yes, I’m nervous. There is no doubt about it.

AA: What accurately did Jimmie’s text say? Was it just a congratulations detail?

RC: Yeah, he mentioned, ‘Hey male, congratulations! I guess this means we’re teammates.’ He was 1 of the 1st types to fire it off any time it came out this morning.

AA: Sounds like you are going to have some good sources. Is there something I skipped?

RC: I truly am just a watermelon farmer. That was the quotation from our to start with earn with each other (with CGR) in 2018. But I’ve gone so considerably farther in the activity than I ever imagined and it tends to make all this so significantly sweeter. It is what I needed, but I just in no way understood and expected it to certainly come by way of like this. So I’ll just maintain operating, similar factor we have been carrying out. I have acquired a excellent team in and all around me. I’m just a watermelon farmer and now I get to go generate Chip Ganassi’s 42 vehicle in the Cup series. I have received a whole lot of perform to do.

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