NASCAR CUP SERIES
NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 9, 2021
ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 42 MCDONALD’S CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Highlights:
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK AT NASHVILLE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE RACING THERE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET READY?
“It’s been a while. I’ve been there in two different truck tests, myself. But my last lap on the track, I crashed. That was a long time ago and I learned a lot since then. It sounds like there were some issues in finding the right Goodyear Eagle tire that we’re going to use. It sounds like the three manufacturers and my teammate, Kurt Busch, was the guy for Chevrolet to be there a couple of different days over the last few months. I think they found what not to run, for sure, and it sounds like settled in on a good race tire. I’ve heard rumors about a resin, or something put on the race track, but I haven’t seen any paperwork on that, for sure. I’m curious if they do something on the track. But as long as they have a tire that can go the distance and falloff and do all the things that we’re used to right now, I think it’ll be fine.”
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF CHATTER ABOUT THE MOVE YOU MADE AT SONOMA. DID YOU KNOW WHAT YOU COULD DO OR WHAT WAS YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS THROUGH THAT?
“Yeah, it all happened really fast. But I’ve looked up before and know the rules, and if there’s a wreck down there, the odds of being able to turn ahead of time are pretty slim. But once I was facing backwards, I knew I couldn’t turn right unless I let the whole field go by. So, I was just turning left to get one out of the way and I was still on the racing line. I was on the curbing. And then I saw the front stretch there and the exit of (Turn) 11 and I was like well, I’m just going to grab some gears here. I never heard if there was a caution out or anything. I saw to my left accelerating, so I just grabbed gears as fast as I could and re-blended in right in front of the No. 14 (Chase Briscoe) and thought that might be where it was at. I guess the way the scoring worked, it was different than that. I wasn’t trying to do anything. I wasn’t trying to make it look that bad. Once I saw the replay, I was like oh, that looks bad coming at that angle. But I was in control and was just re-merging behind where I entered the corner. I definitely didn’t gain time, for sure. I saw there backwards for a few seconds, and I didn’t gain any spots. I was just trying to get back on track.”
IS IT A COINCIDENCE, OR IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THESE ROAD COURSES THAT ARE MAKING YOU A LITTLE BIT MORE COMFORTABLE?
“It’s funny. I actually have been more comfortable on the road courses. I think a lot of it goes back to all the years of Xfinity racing and four road courses a year at four totally different style tracks. And we ran in the rain, I ran on scuffed tires, I ran on stickers, I ran on low horsepower motors compared to the field, I ran in good cars. So, I’ve kind of done that through Xfinity for four or five years. The Cup series is a whole other level, but I didn’t expect it, going into it. And the Daytona Road Course the second race of the year. I wasn’t comfortable there and how to hustle the car, but now I’ve found a good level inside the car and finding those brake zone limits and finding the tire fall-off limits for a place like Sonoma, wheel spin versus lap time, so yeah, as crazy as it is, I have felt more comfortable even though I don’t feel like I’m a good right-hand turner. As simple as that sounds I don’t turn right well. Like I didn’t do it growing up. So, road course racing wasn’t high on my list, but I’ve put a lot of time into it over the years and a lot of just mental thinking through it and looking back through video and iRacing. Just making laps at all these tracks just where I can do it without thinking all right, this is a left-hand and this is a right-hand and this is a big curve, little curve, sharp apex, late apex like where all that stuff is just natural like it is on the ovals. That took time and it took a lot of effort.”
SO FAR THIS SEASON, THE COMPETITION IS CLOSER IN THE FIELD. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE TEMPERAMENT OF THE FIELD? YOU ARE MAYBE CLUSTERED TOGETHER MORE THAN IN YEARS PAST. AND WHAT MIGHT THAT TEMPERAMENT BE LIKE WITH MORE ROAD COURSES COMING UP IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?
“Actually, I would say for me, it’s a lot calmer and cooler than my years in the past with Xfinity and Trucks. In those years and those two series, I was pushing the limit on every past and every lap and every restart. Those races are shorter. I felt like clean air was even more keen, especially in the Truck Series like in 2019 and even last year in the Xfinity Series. It was just go. And I really didn’t have any friends. And I tried to table that and put it aside to start this year, but I still, in those instinctive moments of to block or not, or to punch a guy or not, or to let him go. I was still making those same moves and I didn’t realize it. A few guys sat me down. Kurt, my teammate and Joey Logano, we had a good conversation after a race, and it was kind of eye-opening. It was like okay I’ve got to pay up for it here a little bit. So, I’m racing anywhere from eighth to 15th now, and we want to be a little bit better. But our group there, coming from the back, guys point me by, and I point guys by and it’s crazy. So, for me, it’s actually been really eye-opening to work with these guys and like, oh let’s both go faster. We’re still racing. Even though I told myself I was going to be better, I wasn’t until I really had honest conversations with some of my competitors and a teammate and realized there’s a lot better way to go about it.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR SEASON RIGHT NOW WITH 10 REGULAR SEASON RACES LEFT?
“If you would have asked me about this after Las Vegas, which is a place where I should have been humble enough to realize like, I’ve spent time in the booth with you guys before for the Xfinity race, but I would have said it was terrible. I was not doing my job in the car. But ever since Las Vegas, we’ve been on the upswing of just getting these cars figured out for me. Me figuring myself out. And betting in a better spot mentally and not so down. If we finish a few spots worse than I think we should, I’m not just totally out of my mind on Sunday night and Monday morning and how do I reset and trying to get ready for the next one. It’s been tough. And with 10 to go in the regular season, I just try to do my job. Everybody looks at points. Anybody that says they don’t is not telling the truth. But we want to just score as many points as we can and run as good as we can and everything else will take care of itself. So, I wouldn’t grade myself very high this year. It’s progressively getting better and it’s exponentially rising right now. There’s still a lot of work to do though.”
ON TEAMMATE KURT BUSCH, WOULD IT BE A BIG BLOW TO LOSE HIM? IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’VE LEANED ON HIM SOME.
“Yeah, I’ve leaned on him a ton. Just, how do I interact with other drivers from truly on-track to set-up and driving comparisons, but I have no idea what else is going on. He’s my teammate and all heads forward.”
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PICK-UP FROM KURT BUSCH AS A MENTOR?
“it’s been incredible. I’ve been around CGR for a few years, and we’ve passed. I’ve sat in on meetings and debriefs and pre-race meetings and conference calls and all that, but I was never the driver of the Cup car. And I was worried about how that might change. It did change, but it truly did change for the better. I didn’t realize how much more there was there to get. He’s truly forgotten more things at his age that I’ve ever learned. It’s just like, how he articulates things is just not how I’ve ever been able to do that. Maybe I wasn’t taught at an early age how to truly articulate my feelings and my thoughts and put them out there in a way within a group of people listening can understand. I’ve struggled with that. They way he walks in the shop and approaches people like when you step back in COVID restrictions, our cars are prepared halfway across the shop from each other so the two teams can be socially distanced. And you watch him walk 20 feet and nobody sees him coming and he walks up to his guys. How he walks up to them and approaches them and interacts with them is different than how I’ve done it. Just watching little things like that, let along asking him, how do I talk to this driver, hey can I have this phone number, what should I say when I call this guy and all that stuff. It’s endless what I’ve gotten out of him.”
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO THE NASCAR ALL-STAR OPEN AND HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT RACE?
“I’ll learn a lot from the Truck race. Fortunately, I’m running the No. 45 truck for Niece Motorsports. Anytime I get to run that thing, I’m excited and it’s like a family to me. We are family, basically. From there, I’ll get to go right into the Open the next day. So, I’ll already have time in the PJ1 and spray and the track and pit road. Not that in our Open we’ll be making green flag pit stops, but just all the little things. Just clean-up on Texas. We do DIL Simulators with the team. IRacing has come so far. Now that I have a real rig, it’s truly giving me better feedback. That’s been a game-changer. All that said, it’s still on-track stuff that gets me the most. That’s where I feel like I just learn so much on the actual track I’m about to race. Expectations are we start fifth in the Open, drive up to the lead, win the Open, get in the All-Star race, and go race with my heroes.”
HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BUILDER CAN THAT TRUCK RACE BE FORE YOU?
“It’s big. What we’ve been able to do over the years with Niece Motorsports was nothing short of incredible in 2019, and now we expect that. But it’s still our same group of boys and girls there. When they’d go to the track there’s hardly anybody left at the shop. Now there is. They’ve done a lot for me over the years. Anytime I get to race together it feels like it was when I was growing up and my family, I had an uncle doing decals and I had my granddad jacking the truck up, the fast truck up to change the tire before qualifying. It’s just family and that’s now Niece feels.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO BE AGGRESSIVE IN THE ALL-STAR OPEN? WOULD YOU BE EVEN MORE AGGRESSIVE TO MAKE IT TO THE ALL-STAR RACE?
“I want to go race with my heroes. I want to race with the guys I’ve looked up to. But I can only do what the car can do, and I can only do what my capabilities are. Low power, I know some of the guys, I know (Tyler) Reddick has been down in the dumps about this package. Like, I’m good. It’s the same for everybody. I know we’re bringing the best race car we can. We’re not shorting anything. We’re not taking it lightly this week. My guys are still there early. They were still there early Monday morning getting ready. We got home from Sonoma at 4 am and they’re there earlier than I could have gotten there. And they’ve stayed late. I’m going to go drive the best I can. I can’t drive any harder though. Aggressive or not, I would say I have been and I’m trying to find a happy spot with that.”
WAS IT HARD TO FIGURE OUT TO FIGURE OUT THE FORMAT?
“I do not know. I will not lie to you. I do not know what the All-Star format is.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
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