Trackhouse Racing units 2022 NASCAR lineup

Ross Chastain talks to crew members after a practice run for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
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Ross Chastain talks to crew members after a practice run for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Ross Chastain talks to crew members after a practice run for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

AP

Trackhouse Racing has completed its driver lineup for next season, adding NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain to its roster alongside the team’s current No. 99 driver Daniel Suárez.

Chastain will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet as Trackhouse expands to a two-car operation in 2022. The team announced in June that it would acquire all of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR assets at the end of the 2021 season, allowing for the expansion. Chastain currently drives the No. 42 car for CGR and signed a multi-year deal to compete with Trackhouse starting next year.

“We’re trying to building something real special for the future and that means recognizing talent that is at an important point in the career where they’ve got experience, but they’re young and they’re still building their career,” Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks said. “And that’s what we feel like we have with Daniel and now for sure we have with Ross.”

Marks told reporters Tuesday that Chastain, 28, has “gotten the job done” when driving race-winning equipment. Chastain has made 101 Cup starts driving for a combination of smaller teams, including Premium Motorsports, Spire Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing. He signed with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive full-time with the team in the Cup Series for the 2021 season and has earned two top five finishes and six top 10s in 22 races this year. He was also instrumental to a win for teammate Kurt Busch at Atlanta last month when he slowed Kyle Busch by driving in his lane as the brothers battled for the lead at the end of the race. The elder Busch immediately credited Chastain on his radio after crossing the finish line and called the maneuver “Shake ‘n Bake” in reference to a line popularized by the movie Talladega Nights, emphasizing the pair’s teamwork.

Marks said in June that Busch, the current No. 1 driver, was also a top candidate to drive for Trackhouse next season. Busch has not yet announced his plans for 2022, but reports have speculated his move to 23XI Racing if the team expands. Marks said that he liked the idea of fielding the highest and lowest numbers on the grid with the No. 1 and No. 99 car when asked whether Trackhouse considered fielding the No. 42 next year. He also said that he expects some of CGR’s sponsors to transition to Trackhouse and anticipates selling all races. The team is co-owned by international music icon Pitbull and has hopes for future expansion.

“We’ve got two winners on this race team now, two closers on this race team,” Marks said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Ross. He’s important to Chevrolet. We’ve got a lot of partners that are excited about working with him that we’re closing for 2022 right now, and it’s a great day.”

For Chastain, the multi-year contract is a significant step in his NASCAR career. While he’s found stability racing full-time in the lower-level Xfinity and Truck Series, the deal marks the first time in his Cup career that he won’t have to worry about his plans at the end of a year. He’ll stick with the team at least through 2023. Chastain, who works on his family-owned watermelon farm in South Florida and has branded himself as NASCAR’s “Melon Man,” called the feeling of job security “indescribable” and “a relief.” The announcement was appropriately made on National Watermelon Day, although discussions had been in motion for about a month.

Chastain texted Marks directly to indicate his interest in driving for the team when the Ganassi team sale was announced.

“Fundamentally, down at the core of it, I knew that this was where I wanted to be,” he said.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC beat reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 following an internship at The Washington Post. She played Division I volleyball at Columbia University before earning her master’s degree at the University of Southern California.
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