Chastain looking beyond numbers to build on 2022 momentum

Chastain looking beyond numbers to build on 2022 momentum

Ross Chastain’s NASCAR Cup Series career had nowhere to go but up entering the 2022 season, and impressively and unexpectedly, he nearly scaled to the top of the mountain.

Chastain and the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing team was the season’s breakout star. He was the talk of the garage more often than not — for better or worse.

Two victories propelled Chastain into the playoffs for the first time. Determination led him to Phoenix Raceway with a chance at the Cup Series championship and, ultimately, runner-up to Joey Logano in the title fight.

Having accomplished so much, the question is how the bar wasn’t set too high.

“I don’t have number-based goals,” said Chastain. “I haven’t for a long time. I used to, but I’ve learned it’s not healthy for me. So, it’s not number-based, it’s just to go compete and beat these guys. Sometimes that’s fifth, sometimes that’s 12th, sometimes that’s winning.

“Wherever that is, for me, it won’t be numbers-based. And I’m glad that I’ve built that into me because you can get so caught up if you’re on a bad stretch or have some failures mechanically or behind the wheel in crashes or bad finishes. It will snowball. It’s made me — in the past — have a couple of bad races and I tell myself, ‘Man, I’m in a slump,’ and then I have more bad races because I believe it.

“I don’t know what the goals will be internally at Trackhouse, but for me, it won’t be numbers-based. It’ll be the competition side.”

He might not be big on numbers, but Chastain and Trackhouse Racing put up plenty of them in 2022. John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

But Chastain isn’t ignoring the numbers he put up last season. When looking at who led the Cup Series with consistency in top-five and top-10 finishes, that was Chastain.

He had 21 top-10 finishes over the second-most, which was 20, by Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott. Chastain earned 15 top-five finishes over the second-most, 13, by Kyle Larson.

Those numbers, to Chastain, absolutely matter.

“We’re taking time right now to enjoy it,” he said. “But going into next year, it’ll be try to finish in the top five. If you’re finishing in the top five, you will have opportunities to win races and I feel like … we all know, if you do that consistently, you will have more chances to win.”

Trackhouse Racing experienced many firsts last season as both drivers, Chastain and Daniel Suarez, went to victory lane and made the playoffs. In its second year of operation and true first year as an independent organization, all involved were learning on the fly about how to be contenders.

Chastain and company skyrocketed to the top seemingly overnight. Now the work shifts to making sure the lofty expectations Chastain has proven they’re capable of meeting continue.

“The hardest part for us now is we’ve arrived — how do we stay here?” Chastain said. “I think that’s going to be the most challenging thing we’ve ever done. We thought 2022 was challenging but maintaining that level of competition with these teams that have done it for a long time may be our biggest challenge yet. But look at what we did this year. We’ve got every shot to do it again.”