NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 4, 2021
ROSS CHASTAIN AND HIS MOTHER, SUSAN CHASTAIN, NO. 42 MCDONALD’S CAMARO ZL1 1LE Teleconference Transcript:
THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US FOR A SPECIAL MOTHER’S DAY EDITION TO OUR WEEKLY MEDIA DAY AVAILABILITY HEADING INTO DARLINGTON. TO START, COULD YOU SHARE WITH US A FAVORITE RACING MEMORY THAT YOU HAVE WITH ROSS; AND MAYBE ONE THAT’S NOT RELATED TO THE CUP SERIES?
“There are a million. The first race obviously, was special. Had no idea what we were getting into and no idea where it would go. He was playing soccer and he just came alive at the race track. He loved soccer and loved the racing. So, that was super cool. We just had no idea where that road was going. And then, I think the night he won his first Late Model race was pretty special at our local track. It was just that next level. I have a picture of him and his dad, and the look on his face was just really special. So, just everything was in that one picture.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE SUCH SUPPORTIVE PARENTS, AND ESPECIALLY YOUR MOM, IN YOUR CAREER?
“Yeah, it’s everything. I didn’t only get my good looks from her I also got a lot of the other good qualities and I don’t (being) a race car driver was supposed to be one of them. But they supported me with everything that I wanted to do or that we were fortunate enough to do. I think like she said, I played soccer growing up and had a lot of friends. We all did it for as long as I can remember. And, I was not a good soccer player, so I didn’t enjoy it. I was competitive. But I never truly understood how competitive I was until I got into racing; something I could compete at and actually compete for wins. So, they supported me, much too, other family members. Her parents, my grandparents, were not fans of the race car at first and I believe they were quite upset. Going racing at 12 years old was not heard of around here or in our family, for sure. But my mom and dad, I was their kid and I wanted to do it and they wanted me to do it, so we did it. So yeah, that support, even when her parents were telling her; now we can laugh about it but they didn’t tell me about it at that time. But I’ve heard about it since, that it wasn’t exactly great for the family. But now, and even after the first race, my grandparents came to my second race, and they fell in love with it. And they honestly didn’t miss another race my whole career of racing in Florida.”
YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN THE MCDONALD’S PAINT SCHEME AT DARLINGTON THAT LAST WON A CUP POINTS RACE. HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS ON YOU GOING INTO SUNDAY’S RACE?
“To say we’ve never had a bad race, I’d definitely disagree. We should have won a few of these if I did my job right. We would have won at least one of them. Still, no more pressure than any other week. I mean I still get in these race cars and man I get butterflies. I get cotton mouth. I get this feeling walking out on the grid. It’s a little easier with less people and honestly, less family and guests and fans in the stands. There’s less buzz. So, as the competitor inside of me, it’s a little easier to get my nerves in control. Like, my first two Daytona 500’s in 2018 and 2019 were just insane, the buzz going on there for those races. So, it’s a little easier now with less people around.
“But yeah. No more pressure this week than any other one. It’s a really cool car. Getting to talk to Mr. Johnson’s family, his wife and son who is similar to my age, and just get to know them a little bit on a Zoom call makes this paint scheme more special that McDonald’s wanted to throwback to the Junior Johnson legacy and everything that he did and accomplished as a guy larger than life, to me, in the sport and in life; looking at the things he’s done now that I have a reason to really dig in. And I think that’s an important thing about this throwback weekend is to truly understand what live was like for these guys and girls back in the day. And more than just a paint scheme, get to know them a little bit. It’s great for the people that were around. But for a guy like me and my family; we don’t know when Hut Stricklin drove the Junior Johnson McDonald’s car. We had no idea what that means. So, doing the research now and learning about it; to some that were around at the time, it might seem naïve. But I think for a lot of us in the sport, it’s a time and a good excuse to really dig in and look back. But at the end of the day, it’s still just a paint scheme and then I get to go race. So, no more pressure to race than any other weekend.”
WHAT WAS THE COOLEST THING YOU LEARNED FROM THAT ZOOM CALL?
“I think, from his wife, and listening to her talk, at this point in his life, whenever this car came along, it was a good time. He wasn’t living at the shop and it wasn’t just all racing. He had a family life. For me, there is more to racing, right? There has to be. Right now, I live, sleep, eat, and breathe racing. It’s everything. And so, I think that hearing that and realizing that at some point that’s life, right? I think that’s the biggest thing. He was still fielding winning race cars on the track and doing everything he wanted to do professionally and competitively, but he was also building his family life. I don’t think that was always the case for him. He was a racer and just balancing that. It was good to hear from her that she was able to get through to him a little bit and let him have more of a family life.”
YOU’VE HAD GOOD RACES AT DARLINGTON. THIS IS THE FIRST RACE THAT THE CUP SERIES HAS UTILIZED THE 750 HP, LOW DOWNFORCE PACKAGE SINCE MAKING THE 550 HP, HIGH DOWNFORCE ANNOUNCEMENT. IS THIS YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO GET YOUR FIRST TOP 10 OF THE SEASON AT A TRACK THAT’S NOT A SUPERSPEEDWAY?
“Darlington is tough. And the Cup Series is the toughest of all racing series that could ever go to Darlington. The Xfinity cars, we’ve had a few good runs there. I know the driving style for the Xfinity cars and the Cup cars is different. That’s something I’m working through right now, just trying to adapt and be able to hustle these Cup cars in a way that’s efficient. I think I found a pretty good balance of that last year with the Xfinity cars. I thought we had a good shot at running a Top 10 at Kansas if I get a good restart there towards the end. Same with Darlington. We’ll just go do our job.”
IS THERE ANY LEFTOVER DATA FROM 2018 THAT THE SHOP HAS IN LOOKING BACK IN ADVANCE OF THIS WEEKEND?
“I’m going to say no in two parts. One, that was my first time in a CGR car. We had practice and qualifying, so we had time to get up to speed. But I’ve changed as a driver since then and I’ve evolved, and the set-ups have evolved, and this is a totally different car. In my mental notebook and my personal notebook, I know what mistakes I made that day. I know certain things and just trends of the track. That’s more of what I look at, is how did it take rubber? How were those guys better than me? The second half of my Xfinity races there is where I’ve been the weakest. I’ve been better in the first have and I haven’t necessarily kept up with the track and the adjustments needed. That’s more what we look at versus car set-up. It’s more track trends and how it takes rubber.”
THIS IS FOR SUSAN. CERTAINLY, WITH THE COVID PROTOCOLS IN NASCAR NOT HAVING GUESTS AT THE TRACK, BUT NOW ARE STARTING TO RELAX, WILL YOU BE AT DARLINGTON?
“I will not be at Darlington. I will be working. But we have been able to go to quite a few tracks this year with whatever allowances NASCAR has had. We camped at the ones in Florida. We’ve tried to adjust to it. I was at Talladega. So, I kind of had to pick Talladega, Darlington and it just worked to go to that one. So, we’ve been able to do quite a bit and are just grateful that there are some allowances and have just rolled with it and just happy to be wherever we are.”
CAN YOU LOOK AHEAD TO DOVER? YOU’VE HAD SOME SOLID RUNS THERE. TAKE US FOR A LAP AROUND THAT PLACE. IT LOOKS LIKE A GIANT BRISTOL, BUT IT’S BEEN DESCRIBED AS EVERYTHING FROM A ROLLER COASTER TO WHO KNOWS WHAT. WHAT’S IT LIKE BEHIND THE WHEEL?
“Yeah, it is like a big Bristol and it’s one of my favorite tracks being concrete. The biggest thing is the elevation change. From the straightaways down into the corner, it’s a physical drop and you actually go down. I’ve heard different numbers. But I’m going to say it’s somewhere around 10 feet or eight feet. Something like that, maybe. The sensation at that speed going downhill, and with us running the high horsepower, low downforce, is even better. It means more on-throttle time. We’re lifting. We’re sliding. But a lot of bumps. So, picture going across a concrete bridge right on any interstate in America, you go up, you go over the overpass, you go over the bridge. You get that up and down two or three times. We do that in a split second, and we do it all the way around the track. You hear guys say it felt like the tires were basketballs. It’s true. You feel like you’re just bouncing and bouncing. Having a good spring and shock package and control and attitude of your car there is really key. When they were building that place, they sure had a vision because it is one of a kind.”
THE INDYCAR DRIVERS AT TEXAS LAST WEEKEND TALKED ABOUT THE PJ1 AND THAT THE TRACK WAS SLIPPERY AND IT WAS LIKE WALKING ON ICE. HOW MUCH DOES THAT DIFFER FROM YOUR RACES THERE??
“Yeah, they’re in a lose situation. I felt for those guys because I know what it’s like. Whenever that spray, whatever you want to call it, when it reacts bad with your tire it is the worst feeling in the world. It’s like driving on black ice, hydroplaning, or whatever. It’s a terrible feeling because you lose control. For me, personally, that is the moment that I dread. I dread the moment I lose control. And that’s usually when you’re crashing, right? You know you’re going to wreck. You know you’re not driving the car anymore. For the INDYCAR guys it was constant. They were constantly on edge. They go around there so fast at Texas anyway I think the previous configuration of the track was perfect for INDYCAR. It was better for us too, right? So, I don’t envy those guys at a doubleheader, too. I don’t think they got much sleep between the races. I wouldn’t have either. I think they’ve got some work to go over there to not get in a situation. I know they want to race at Texas but if we’re spraying the sticky spray on it, it’s sticky for us when we get it activated just right and drag the tires and we apply it, we’ve got it pretty scienced-out for NASCAR. If I was any INDYCAR driver of any kind of status above where I’m at I would be raising my hand like we don’t need to be doing this. I didn’t watch much of the weekend. But from a driver’s point of view, it’s hard to charge and make a pass when there’s a sheet of ice a foot away from you.”
FOR SUSAN, WITH EVERYTHING THAT ROSS HAS BEEN THROUGH IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS, IN STRUGGLING TO GET INTO A SOLID AND COMPETITIVE CUP RIDE, WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO FIND OUT THAT HE WAS GOING TO BE IN THE NO. 42 CAR FOR CHIP GANASSI RACING?
“For me, it was a lot of things. He kept his faith. He fought hard. He did what he had to do and just worked hard like so many other people in the world. You just go do what you’ve got to do and take advantage of whatever opportunity you have. And then to get there, so to speak, made my mom’s heart happy. I was proud of him no matter what, because I watched how hard he worked and all the things he did and all the people that were in his corner along the way and he made some fabulous friends. So it’s like this whole story kept unfolding and unfolding, which is not unlike any other mom watching your kid grow up and just go out in life and fight the fight, but to get this ride, yeah. It was like yes! I was really happy for him because I knew how hard he had worked. I’d seen all the ups and downs and we’ve lived through it. It’s like any other family. It’s your kid and you just want him to be good. And he always was. So that was just icing on the cake, I guess.”
HOW DID HE BREAK THE NEWS TO YOU?
“Oh, gosh; I’m trying to think. I guess he called. He was in North Carolina and we’re here. I’m sure it was a phone call. I don’t think it was in person. You know things might be unfolding but you never really know where everything is going. I’m sure it was just a phone call. I should probably remember that moment, but I guess I don’t (laughs).”
DO YOU LIKE HIS WATERMELON SMASH CELEBRATIONS OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S A WASTE OF GOOD FAMILY WATERMELONS?
“I love it. I love it. I think that’s because it came from his heart. It came from him. It’s Ross. It wasn’t like an orchestrated thing or hey let’s go. And I was at that race. We were there and actually some very good friends of ours that watched Ross grow up. Their son used to race at Punta Gorda. And they ended up coming to Vegas. So, we were there and got to be there for the win. Everything built up to that watermelon smash moment. I love it. I think it’s great. I watch all the kids simulate it or reenact it on the internet or their posts and the kid that introduced him the other day at Talladega, I think it’s fabulous. I love it.”
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