Transcript of Ross Chastain’s press conference
ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 ONX HOMES / iFLY CAMARO ZL1, meets the media ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying session at Richmond Raceway. Transcript of the press conference:
ROSS, TELL US HOW YOUR WEEK HAS BEEN SINCE YOU WON YOUR FIRST WINNER.
“It’s been busy. Not slept enough until yesterday. We tried to do everything we could and take advantage of this opportunity. I don’t think we said ‘no’ to anyone. They claimed that they refused certain things, certain requests. But it was two whole days. We had a production day there for the Moose Fraternity, a full day at the shop and a run to Millbridge to continue learning the dirt for Daniel (Suarez) and me. We both directed the feature, which was the goal.
I slept yesterday. I flew and went straight to the hotel. I was in bed at three o’clock in the afternoon; I woke up around 9:00 p.m. and went back to sleep around 11:00 p.m. I feel much better this morning.
I KNOW A LOT OF THESE GUYS HAVE WON RACES BEFORE IN THEIR CAREERS, BUT IS THERE A DIFFERENT VIBE IN THE SHOP THIS WEEK THAN IN PREVIOUS WEEKS?
“Once we arrived at the store, I arrived at the store on Monday. Our road crew, most of them came on Tuesday. For the people in the shop, there were smiles. But there have been smiles this year. You’ve probably heard some of us talk about it, but this is different. For the same building and most of the same employees, it’s different. This car gives us a lot to smile about and we were fast.
However, for some of us it was our first win, and people who have won before have made it a point to give us some tips on how to remember and enjoy those little moments. We were there for the winning breakfast and the winning lunch. I said to Justin (Marks), that was probably the most embarrassing part for me. It’s what we’ve always worked for and now we celebrate it and it almost feels like an out of body experience. There were a lot of high-fives. My hand is still sore; lots of high fives.
YOU MENTIONED IT HAS BEEN A BUSY WEEK. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS?
“The highlights spoke to people back home. In Charlotte and Mooresville, there are a lot of people who have helped me come here and have been part of this journey. But when you look at the people back home, they weren’t being paid to do it. They had no real reason other than they liked racing or they were my family. Talking to them – hearing the stories of where they were towards the end of the race, seeing some videos of them reacting to the race – that’s when it all really came together. That’s when it felt real.
I spoke to a guy this morning on the way. He raced late model cars and was the one who taught my dad and me how to set timing and heights on a coil spring car. My dad knew bucket springs and knew a metric chassis; that’s what I started with. But when we got into the latest models, we didn’t know. We considered hiring or paying for shock absorbers and shock stops, but the cost seemed high. So we never did that. We just ran all the coil springs that came on the car. I was talking to him and he was the one who was there a few nights a week for years helping to scale it because we didn’t know how to make adjustments. We certainly never took the shocks apart the whole time we had them. Just talk to him – he retired from the sheriff’s department and works part-time now, and loves racing. He helped us a lot, Rusty did. That was the coolest part though, talking to people back home.
YOU SAID THIS WEEK THAT VICTORY WOULD NOT CHANGE ANYTHING, ABOUT THE TEAM’S APPROACH AND THE WAY YOU WILL DO BUSINESS AND YOUR MINDSET. FOR YOU, WAS A WEIGHT LIFTED? IS IT A RELIEF TO SHOW PEOPLE WHAT YOU’VE FIGHTED TO ACHIEVE FOR SO LONG?
“I want to say no, but yes. I’m human so yes – I’ve been to bed every night this week, some nights were mornings, but this is it. That’s what I was talking about with Justin (Marks) at the store. We are here and we eat as a company and as a family because we won. It’s hard to really realize that. I realize that, but the adrenaline had worn off on Tuesday or whenever we did it. Now, it’s like I was here doing this, but it was just weird. It was different. I had never done that.
We don’t do anything different. We scoured the tech like everyone else yesterday. They had completed the technology in an hour and a half; passed the first time, fifth car through. On the way to machining the wheels to prepare them for the weekend. I was busy sleeping at the hotel. It changed for me, I had never done that. I never flew and went straight to bed. But I needed to catch up to be ready for this morning.
ONE OF THE THINGS, AT LEAST FROM THE OUTSIDE TO THE INSIDE THAT SEEMS LIKE IT FEELS YOU, IS KIND TO GET A CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER BECAUSE OF THE ROAD. HOW DO YOU MANAGE OR KEEP THIS TOKEN WHILE YOU GO TO ANOTHER LEVEL OF TRYING TO WIN NOW A WINNER IN THIS SERIES?
“It may not seem like it with the finish last week, but I made a real push for 2021. I joked with my group that the only chip I have is Chip Ganassi I don’t want that old Ross I want Ross 3.0 I already had 2.0 by then and I need 3.0 I just want to be better Yeah it got me here and I ‘m proud of it, and I wouldn’t trade any of that. Staying here now, I’ve realized I can’t be like this.
Of course, our first Cup win comes as it does with controversy. That’s not how I drew it in my head, but I made a real effort. It doesn’t show on arrival. I tried last year and it was really halfway through the year before I could really put it together. And then this year, during the off season, I tried not to have that chip. Now that chip is gone and Chip Ganassi has quit the sport. So I don’t want tokens. No chips on the carrier (laughs).
HAVE YOU RE-EVOLVED YOUR FOCUS ON THE PLAY-OFFS AND HOW DOES VICTORY CHANGE THE DYNAMICS OF THE APPROACH NOW FOR THE REST OF THE REGULAR SEASON?
” This is not the case. I texted Jeff Haden this week. I wanted to bring him to Concord before the season, but I dropped the ball and didn’t. I was like I wanted to have you before the Playoffs and he was like ‘it’s crazy you’re already talking about the Playoffs’. Nothing else has changed, but I want to be aware of that. What I learned through Trucks and Xfinity is that – when I got there – I often tried to do more and I don’t want to do it again. I just want to do what got us here. It’s easy to sit here on April 2 and say that. To do that at the end of the season with 10 races to go is going to be a whole other level.
For me, probably the mental struggle is constantly going to come and go. To get a good understanding and then get caught up – ok, we need a stage point here to keep adding – when all we really need to do is race. Fighting this will be difficult; I’m not saying it won’t. But really, that mental struggle will be just as important as being a little stronger physically by the time we get there too.
WHAT IS THIS PLACE THAT GIVES YOU ALL KINDS OF CHALLENGES AND WHAT WILL BE KEY FOR YOU TOMORROW TO ENSURE THAT YOU CONTINUE THIS SERIES OF CONSISTENT QUALITY FINISHES?
“I mean the key is to have all the tire stickers on. Not too long ago – probably 2016 or 2015, somewhere in there – I was here in Johnny’s #4 car and we got into the top 10 on a race of some 80 laps a warning came out with 15 to go and the only tires we had left were scuffs because we didn’t buy the whole lot so we are just stayed out and we hung on for 15th when with stickers we might have stayed in the top 10 I think at that point we probably hadn’t done that before It’s not lost on me that I came into Richmond (Raceway) before knowing how bad the tires go; knowing how smooth the track is. I have two sets of stickers – one for the workout we brought from home who are old, and one for the qualifications you have to qualify on stickers nts. And then you start racing on those and after that it’s scrapes. So, maybe another set of stickers.
Those days are still in my head. How I had to drive and how I had to try to fight guys when I had scrapes. That’s just how you do it there and that’s how you do it in those programs, and that’s how you stay. These days are not lost for me.
WHILE THIS NEW CAR WAS GENERATED, I THINK WE ALL ASSUMPED IT WILL BE THAT TEAM TAKING A BIG JUMP. YOU AND DANIEL (SUAREZ) DID GREAT RACES TOO. WHAT IS IT IN THIS SEASON TO BE THIS TEAM THAT MADE THIS LEAP?
“I’ve been grateful and I keep saying that to the boys and girls of Trackhouse (Racing). Please give me fast cars because nobody’s car is comfortable to drive right now. We’re spinning; I wrecked. I over-corrected. But as we got through each run, they made it tolerable. Just that little extra bit where I can start to hustle him. Gotta keep reminding myself. – let go 100% because they’re hard to ride. You see guys, we’re all going around in circles and hitting rock bottom. It’s a feeling of gratitude for me that they give me fast cars. Our car at the Auto Club was fast and I plugged it into the wall, head-on, at turn four. I can’t do that.