Sunday, 19 January 2020

NASCAR: What does Ross Chastain’s Cup Series future hold? – Beyond the Flag

NASCAR: What does Ross Chastain’s Cup Series future hold? – Beyond the Flag
14 Dec

Set to compete full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the 2020 season, what does Ross Chastain’s future hold for him in the Cup Series?

Ross Chastain did it all in the 2019 NASCAR season.

The 27-year-old Alva, Florida native opened up the season set to compete full-time in the Xfinity Series for points, primarily with JD Motorsports but with Kaulig Racing in select races. He ultimately ended up declaring for Truck Series points and driving full-time in the Truck Series for Niece Motorsports.

Meanwhile, he competed full-time for Premium Motorsports in the Cup Series, albeit not for points.

When the 2019 season ended, Chastain had competed in a total of 77 NASCAR races in 2019, by far the most among all drivers, out of a maximum possible total of 92.

He even set a new record for his consistent participation across the three national series, starting in each of the first 36 races on the schedule across all three series. The previous record was only 22. As for the 2020 season, Chastain, who finished runner-up in the Truck Series championship standings in 2019, is set to compete full-time for points in the Xfinity Series like he did from 2015 to 2018.

This time around, he is set to drive full-time for Kaulig Racing. He ended up driving in six races for the team in 2019, and he secured his second career Xfinity Series victory driving the #16 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway. He is set to drive the #10 Chevrolet with second-year driver Justin Haley as his teammate behind the wheel of the #11 Chevrolet.

Chastain, however, still wants to compete in the Truck Series and the Cup Series as often as he can. He has competed full-time for Premium Motorsports in the latter in each of the last two seasons (69 of 72 races), but not for points.

Here is what Chastain had to say about competing in all three series in the future, according to NASCAR.

“If I’m going to make it in this sport, I’m putting in the work now to hopefully make that next step in a couple of year.”

Premium Motorsports, one of the backmarker teams of the Cup Series, have not yet confirmed their driver lineup for 2020, but Chastain could very well end up back behind the wheel of the #15 Chevrolet.

It is simply too hard to see him ending up elsewhere due to his status as a points-eligible driver in the Xfinity Series. Front Row Motorsports are the only full-time, fully chartered team with any open seats remaining, and it is hard to see them signing somebody other than a Cup Series points-eligible driver or drivers.

Here is what Chastain had to add about ongoing discussions to continue competing in the Truck Series and Cup Series next year even with a full-time points-paying ride in the Xfinity Series already lined up.

“We’re having those conversations right now. But I tell every team when I first meet them, get to know them and before I ever drive for them, OK, you’re going to have some hard days to deal with me. Here’s what I think it will be, and then you tell me ahead of time what you think it’ll be. And then we’ll go through that. Because I don’t want any surprises…Different teams want me to run less and some teams want me to run more. It depends on their personal opinion…Whatever happens, happens. I’ve probably already out-kicked my coverage on my career.”

But beyond 2020, what does Chastain’s Cup Series future hold?

Chastain notably competed in three Xfinity Series races for Chip Ganassi Racing late in the 2018 season. He won one of them, dominated another before being taken out in an incident involving Kevin Harvick and finished in second place in the other.

That stellar performance was enough to land him a full-time ride with Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2019 season. But then a sponsorship debacle caused the team to shutter their Xfinity Series program, and Chastain has not driven for the team at all since then.

However, team owner Chip Ganassi has previously stated that Chastain remains tied to the team despite the unfortunate set of events that led to them not competing together in 2019 at NASCAR’s second highest level.

As such, consider Chastain the top replacement candidate for whichever current Chip Ganassi Racing driver leaves the team first.

Kyle Larson’s contract expires after the 2020 season. He has been linked to several other teams, most notably Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, but he could end up staying behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet as well due to Ganassi’s flexibility with his dirt track racing schedule, which he maintains is a priority moving forward.

Kurt Busch, meanwhile, signed a two-year contract extension to continue driving the #1 Chevrolet through the 2021 season after stating that he wanted a chance to drive the Gen-7 car, which is set debut in 2021.

But Busch is now 41 years old, meaning that this new contract could be his last, and he has shown interest in competing in other forms of racing as well, namely IndyCar. There was even speculation that he wouldn’t be back in 2020, so don’t rule out a post-2021 departure.

Maybe Chastain will find a better opportunity before either one of these two drivers no longer competes for Ganassi’s team. But if not, don’t be surprised to see NASCAR’s busiest driver officially join the organization in a full-time driver role, and at NASCAR’s highest level, within the next few years.

Next: Top 10 NASCAR drivers of all-time

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What does Ross Chastain’s future in the NASCAR Cup Series hold? Will he end up competing for a championship in the series at any point within the next few years, possibly with Chip Ganassi Racing?



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