CHEVY NCS: Ross Chastain Victorious in Final Lap Battle at Talladega

In true Talladega Superspeedway fashion, it was an all-out fight to the finish, with a last lap pass that saw Ross Chastain take the checkered flag in his No. 1 Moose Fraternity Camaro ZL1. With one lap to go, Chastain was running third behind Chevrolet teammates, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. In the effort to keep the lead, a block gave Chastain the window to pilot his Chevrolet-powered machine to the front, capturing his second NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) victory of 2022 by just .105-seconds.
“I’m always the one going to the top too early, making the mistake,” said Chastain in front of the packed Talladega grandstands. “There at the end it was like eight (laps) to go, I was like – I’m not going up there again. I did that a couple times today. I’ll just ride on the bottom. If it works, I’m not going to lose the race for us. I’ll just let them.”
Chastain’s victory came after the 29-year-old Florida native led just one lap of the 188-lap race, but it was the lap that mattered the most that led him to his second-career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. With 10 points-paying races in the books, Chastain is now just the second driver in the series to become a repeat winner thus far this season, joining fellow Chevrolet driver, William Bryon, on that elite list. While a young team in only its second full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series competition, the feat marks Trackhouse Racing’s second NCS victory, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with.
The bowtie brand made a strong showing throughout the race, with six of the top-10 in the final running order being taken by the Camaro ZL1, represented by four different Chevrolet teams. Austin Dillon posted his fifth top-10 finish of 2022, bringing home a runner-up finish in his No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Camaro ZL1 to make it a 1-2 finish for Chevrolet. In his best performance on a superspeedway, Kyle Larson battled to a fourth-place finish in his No. 5 Camaro ZL1 to round out the top-five for the bowtie brand.
Erik Jones showed the speed of his No. 43 U.S. Air Force Camaro ZL1 all day, scoring a top-10 finish in both stages and recording 25 laps led. Taking the white flag in the lead, Jones put up a valiant fight for the win, navigating his way through last-lap chaos to finish in a strong sixth-place position. Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, brought their Camaro ZL1’s to the finish in the seventh and ninth-place spots, respectively.
The victory marks the sixth of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season for the Camaro ZL1 and the 42nd at the 2.66-mile Alabama Superspeedway, extending its lead over all manufacturers. As the winningest brand in NASCAR, Chevrolet now sits at 820 all-time wins in NASCAR’s premier series. Leaving NASCAR’s longest oval of Talladega Superspeedway, Chevrolet continues to lead in both the NCS Driver and Manufacturer point standings, with eyes set on defending its championship titles. Chase Elliott’s solid top-10 finish kept his spot on top of the driver standings, extending his lead by a 21-point advantage over the second position.
The NASCAR Cup Series season continues next weekend at Dover Motor Speedway with the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne, on Sunday, May 1 at 3 p.m. ET. Live coverage will air on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
THE MODERATOR: We have now been joined by our race winner at Talladega, Ross Chastain.
ROSS CHASTAIN: For me, it’s his confidence in the way he answers that, is the whole reason we’re not underdogs. It starts at the top.
I can go into a long spiel about it, but it truly just starts with when he answers that question, that’s the reason why. That’s the reason why we believe it.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: I would be lying if I told you I remembered exactly what he said, so… Whatever he said, that’s what he said.
Q. Your dad was not at COTA. The first win he said he’s ever missed. He was here today. What was it like?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It was awesome. I realized that immediately at COTA that he wasn’t there. Yeah, that’s special. He comes a lot, he puts a lot of effort into being here, my mom does, my brother does, my family. They make the evident to drive, fly, whatever it takes. It means the world.
He is the reason that I’m here. He is the reason I fell in love with racing and why I stayed out of, I don’t want to say trouble, but like it gave me an avenue to be successful. I fell in love with it.
He didn’t push me early on. I mean, he did, but it wasn’t like other kids we were racing against. I think the way he did it was the perfect way.
We had fun racing locally. We got to this level, did a few races, kept doing more.
Beyond all that, back to the question, my dad was here, we won a Cup race, that’s so cool.
Q. A year ago a lot of things were uncertain about your future in the Cup Series. Does it just seem surreal at times?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It does not seem real at all. I keep waiting to wake up from this dream and realize it’s all not what I think I’m living.
But I’ve got great groups of people from Trackhouse, the competition and business side, my family, people in Charlotte and around Moorseville that keep reminding me and keep showing me this is real.
I talked about it earlier, sitting right here at this spot, I’m right where I want to be, and I have the people around me. They keep me remembering and keep reminding me and keep pushing me to make this the best we can make it.
We’re not resting on any of this stuff. Like Justin said, I might not be quite as sharp in the morning to get to work on Dover, but I’ll get to work on it at some point tomorrow.
Q. When you brought out the watermelon, it got a pop from the crowd. What was it like to stand on top of your car with the melon, Talladega grandstands going crazy?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Roy brought it out. Mr. Roy gets it every week for us. It’s a long way down there for him. I like to remind him, at his age that’s no small feat.
I knew I wanted to stand on the car. Like I want it to smash. I don’t want it to just bust open. Yeah, my Bell helmet, I’m running ear cuffs, noise-canceling ear cuffs, and ear molds. I heard them and I felt them. The car was shaking. Then my legs started shaking. My arms were shaking. I took a second, scanned left to right, so like from the start/finish line was in my peripheral, I scanned down to the tri-oval. People were going crazy. It was wild.
Smashed it and they erupted again. Yeah, it’s indescribable. Like, I don’t have the words, but just the feeling they pumped into me, that I got, was what you dream of. Like that’s what I wanted to do when I first wanted to show watermelons, if I was ever able to win a race, I wanted that feeling. I wanted that reaction. We got that.
Q. I know the first win is the biggest. To win a race like this with patience more important?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It is now because it was a mental decision I made. Whenever I got in line there on the bottom pushing Larson, I had J.J. behind me. I’ve made the mistake, I don’t want to say I let him, but I made the mistake several times in Xfinity cars, had like track position on him, and equal cars, I moved up or made a move, he went on to win the race.
I knew he would stay on the bottom. He won so many races that way. If he pushed me and I pushed the 5, we’d have the best shot. Make the bottom the best it could be.
It’s not that I was complacent or anything. I thought my best chance of winning was to just push the bottom. That was wrong because the 43 still cleared all of us, but still I thought it was going to put me in the best position to win.
So, yeah, the patience side, it’s hard. It’s so hard every split-second decision has to be quick, but also you have to be able to live with the consequences of it.
I just thought that was my best maneuver, which I never thought that before. It’s not like, Oh, I should have always done that in the past. It just worked out this time.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: No, I think he went up to pass the 43. That’s how I remember it.
Q. (No microphone.)
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: I was never going up. I mean, I might have — it’s a blur. Coming to the finish, Kurt is on my right rear, I’m trying to keep whoever, I don’t even know if there was anybody still behind me, no matter where the car went, the mental decision was not to go to his right rear because I had somebody on my outside, so…
That’s cool that he thought I did it, though. Let’s let him think that.
Q. I have really important questions. How old is this watermelon?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It got purchased right after COTA. So it’s been a few weeks. It was on its last leg.
Q. How does last-leg watermelon off the pavement and after 800 miles taste?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Never sweeter. Oh, my goodness. There was so much watermelon juice on my face, running down me. I looked down at it and there were no seeds. I am like, They’re either all on my face and Regan is not saying anything again. I called him on it, Are you going to tell me this time? Help a brother out.
Just knowing what that means, not to get too longwinded, but back to our family’s history, what has put food on our table for generations, to get to do that in front of let alone this crowd, but national, worldwide attention, is just all I have ever wanted to do as a race car driver, is help promote watermelons.
Q. Have watermelons ever gotten this much exposure? This platform, are you noticing the attention?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I mean, I am. I’ve noticed attention on watermelon forever. I work with different state associations, the National Watermelon Association, there’s a National Watermelon Promotion Board. We incorporate into safe driving campaigns, paint schemes whenever we can. So I’ve always had obviously the attention to it.
I mean, I still have Google alert set for watermelon race truck, watermelon driver, watermelon race car driver, to an old email address that I’ll check every now and then. I’d send off a story to the board or to the association to show them what we were doing.
I don’t know. That might be a question for somebody a little bit older than me, might know if watermelons have ever gotten this much attention. I’m going to guess not. I mean, Gallagher, right?
Q. When Justin was in here, he talked about how Talladega is hallowed ground in NASCAR. As you’ve been coming up in the sport, where was Talladega’s place in your mind, where you would want to win?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It is. It is. It was said today, like they don’t race ’em anywhere else like they race ’em at Talladega. I think Barney Hall said that, I think.
Yeah, we’ve all been watching races here forever. I mean, I come here with the — I used to come here really worried, try to focus my first couple years, try to, like, plan out every move. I realized pretty quickly that’s not possible.
Johnny Sauter said one time, Why are you worried? You’re going to be backwards in the grass at 200 miles an hour, if you don’t hit anything you’ll still have a chance to win, relax.
He just said it in passing. I don’t even know if it was driver intros or after the race. It stuck with me. I was like, You know what, he’s right. I should come here a lot more relaxed and learn and try to prepare. I prepare. I try to be the best race car driver I can be, but I’m no better because we won.
There was 25 cars today that could legitimately win this race. In theory there were 39, but 25 legitimate chances. We were just the lucky ones, the cars parted and they all hung right coming to the tri-oval, that was it.
Q. The same car as COTA. Does that make this more special?
ROSS CHASTAIN: It makes it so special that Jim France and the NASCAR family, the France family, their vision for this car, that you can win a race on a road course. Is it a month? Has it been a month or two months since COTA? In a month you can bring a car back you win at a road course and win at Talladega. That hasn’t happened since the ’60s. I don’t know, farther back. I have no idea. They would have different cars.
It’s wild. That’s more what it means to me, that this car is capable of that. Change the geometry, the suspension, shim the body a little bit, go race. Put different tune in the motor for a superspeedway, adjust your rear diffuser, adjust everything, and the same car can come race. That’s just wild.
I’m not sitting here going to say it’s any cheaper yet. I don’t think it’s cheaper for us than just building a new car like in the past. I don’t know. I don’t know the business behind what we’re doing. I just drive the cars.
It is special, though.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: I’m not. I mean, I like that we still have my first-ever race truck, my Monte-Carlo race car back home. We have my brother’s first car. That kind of stuff is neat. I will probably never get rid of those.
You honestly can’t tell. The first time that ever happened for me, you can always tell something between each car, there’s always a little something different. I wrecked in the Duel last year in the 42 car, wrecked the car. We went to a backup. I got in for practice the next day, and I called them out. There’s no way, this is the same car, same interior.
They’re like, No, it’s all new, but it’s all that good. It’s that well-prepared. They prepare it that close that you can’t tell a difference. Same thing with these cars. I can’t tell a difference week in, week out. I can’t tell that it’s the same car because I can’t tell that one’s any different.
Q. Your first Cup victories have come at two distinct tracks. Is that mind-blowing for you?
ROSS CHASTAIN: Absolutely mind-blowing, it is. I grew up short-track racing, so I just assumed and thought that was where I was the best. Turning right was hard, drafting was hard. I just thought I would never be able to catch up to guys that had been doing it so much longer than me. A lot of time and work and really good people surrounding me, we’ve closed the gap. There’s still a long ways to go.
But, yeah, it’s absolutely mind-blowing.
Q. Where does this rank among your victories?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I don’t put any of them ahead of any other one. This one and COTA, yeah, I mean, it’s Cup, it’s different, but, I mean, I put it right next to the Iowa Truck win.
Q. Justin has talked about this team being a disruptor, doing things in a different way. How has he impacted you, and how has he impacted this team, especially when he’s more based in Nashville?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I’d say as much on the business and public side, he’s a disruptor. His messaging to me is like I don’t have to be a disruptor anymore. On track, it’s okay, I can take a breath, I don’t have to drive every lap.
I would say I was a disruptor through trucks, Xfinity, early on in Cup last year. It took several different people that I have a lot of respect for, some that at the time I didn’t really know why they were telling me these things because I didn’t know them that well.
Justin, like this year, It’s okay, stop, just stop. You’re okay. Just go drive the car, but you don’t have to win every lap. Win the day, be as good as we can that day.
Yeah, as far as everything else, Trackhouse is maybe a disruptor in that sense. For me, it’s almost been the opposite.
Q. I noticed they showed probably with about five laps to go the different winners throughout the year. Maybe all but Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were younger drivers. Coming into the Cup Series, seeing all these drivers you raced with doing well, does that motivate you at all?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I don’t look at any car, anything farther than how do I pass ’em or how do I race ’em. I think there are more of us that are in our 20s, 20-year-old range. Yeah, I see what everybody is talking about. I do see the trend. Those guys are good. They have forgotten more than I’ve ever learned. That’s been the hardest part about Cup, is trying to catch up to that.
Even though it’s a different car, totally different environment on track, with everything about this new car, still they’re that good that they will adapt. Trying to come as prepared as I can be every week, I still look to those guys.
I’m studying them to try to be the best race car driver I can be, so I think they’re the best.
Q. Did you get a chance to talk with Pitbull at all?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I haven’t. That’s twice in a row in Victory Lane, I’m running around, hugging, jumping on people. Justin, they’re off on the side where they can actually hear him.
I’ll have a text from him. We text every so often. He’s always motivating. He wants to be here, he does. We’re going to catch up down in south Florida because our homes aren’t that far apart. Couldn’t probably be farther environment and socially, a farther distance in the world. Yeah, we have the same passion for this right now.
I mean, he’s Mr. Worldwide. The thought he’s going to be here, like Justin said, every week, is a dream. He’ll be here. He’s going to be here for one of these wins.
I think rolling off today, Daniel, I thought he had one of the fastest cars. Honestly the wreck that took them out coming to the restart, I shut the car off to try to keep it cool, saving gas, coming to the restart I popped the clutch, the ignition was off. I lagged back.
I took off but I didn’t actually catch up. That’s when Joey got turned in turn one, they all wrecked, I was barely able to slow down enough. I would have been in that wreck with Daniel but for that mistake. I feel like Daniel, I truly believe, I see the preparation, the 1 and 99, he’s going to win races. When he does, he’s going to rattle them off. He’s that level, that caliber driver. The 1 and 99 are building together.
Yeah, I haven’t gotten to talk to Armando yet.
Q. A lot of special things about today’s win. How would you sum up what you’re going to remember years from now about this?
ROSS CHASTAIN: I mean, I’m going to remember that I crossed the line. I honestly didn’t know if we won. I mean, I knew that I quit blocking I think the 3. Did the 3 finish second? I had saw the 5 and the 43 hanging right. I was just motoring on the bottom. Brandon said, Go to the top.
I’m like, That’s weird. The 3 is going to push me.
I knew I was coming to the checkered. I crossed the line. They were all slowing down. I was like, Did we win? Like, we won? Everybody is slowing down. I was like, We won the race. That’s wild.
So, I mean, that’s the first thing. Then for the first time ever I blew the rear tires doing burnouts. I felt them unraveling, I didn’t care. I had it in second gear, wide open. I’ll take the hit on that, whatever we got to do to fix it. In the moment I couldn’t control myself.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Terrible. Terrible, yeah. I just cost us the race I thought. Absolutely. I didn’t think there was any way.
I knew there was a way to get back in it. Honestly, I knew it would be hard. Just track position, man. We had cycled out to be fifth. The whole rest of the race, I had to watch the 43, watch Erik up there dicing it up, if nothing else, learning how to race with the leaders.
I’m 12th in line at the bottom, 13th in line on the top. I’m just stuck. Tried the very top a couple times, tried to work with a few guys, hung guys out, got hung out.
Took Phil Surgen, strategy, key move. When we had the speeding penalty, I didn’t get down. It was like, Well, make it a whole lot harder. We had just jumped so many guys to come out fifth.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROSS CHASTAIN: Yeah, the field was counted down. Brandon counted down leaders, side-by-side, two-by-two. McDowell had slowed down when I had to do my pass-through, I don’t know why he was that far back. He slowed down so we could draft together. That prolonged us going down a few laps.
I knew I had to race him for the free pass, Brad was in the pack, at the tail. Off of two I started dragging back to get gapped off of Michael, get a little momentum for him.
Into three, it’s a decision I made on my own. I offset to the right of Michael, so he was on the bottom, and I went to the right. I’m about a car length or a little bit less back.
I knew that that put everybody either going two-by-two above me, which I would probably have to give it to them. When I saw the 5 split to the bottom, I disrupted the field. That was my goal, was create turbulence where I can catch up and they don’t put me all the way to the back.
I mean, I thought about it for a few laps. It’s not something I would do every time. In that situation I felt the risk of what I was doing was enough to get the free pass at the stage break, to get around the 34 and stay ahead of Brad. Turns out it probably wasn’t enough.
They both got their laps back a couple cautions later. I knew to get the first free pass at stage one end, I had to disrupt the field. If not, they would blow by me. Michael, me and Brad would all be at the back of the line, then we’d be stuck. If I was behind one of them, I’d never pass them.
Yeah, I’m sure Kyle wasn’t super happy with me. Might have cost him the lead. I felt like it was a risk worth taking and it was on purpose.
THE MODERATOR: Ross, congratulations.
THE MODERATOR: We’re moving on to the race-winning owner, Justin Marks.
Justin, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on that second win. Take us through the final laps from your spot on the pit box.
JUSTIN MARKS: I wasn’t on the pit box. I was on the bus. I was trying to keep my world a little quiet at the end. These things end up being so circumstantial at the end of the races.
What was interesting about this race, and we talked about this in the bus about 15 to go, everybody is in a single file line. We’re all kind of cruising. Everybody is thinking about what they’re going to do at the end. Then you see a whole bunch of plans try to be executed at one moment. But they don’t all jibe with everybody else’s plans. It’s just madness.
I really liked where Ross was. He was painting the bottom, being patient, riding with some Chevrolet friends there. When things got crazy, Ross is in a spot right now where he’s making pretty intelligent decisions.
I mean, I’m a fan alongside the other 150,000 people here on the property at the end of the race just cheering for my guy. He did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions for Justin.
Q. Ross won this race with patience. Did you think he would win a race with patience?
JUSTIN MARKS: That’s a very, very interesting question.
I’ve said this a number of times. Ross has spent a number of years in his career fighting every lap of every race because tomorrow wasn’t given because next week was not guaranteed.
I’ve seen and continue to see so much talent in him that my goal was to put him in a position where he didn’t have to do that, where he had some job security, he felt like he could build this team around him.
I told him this year that if he slowed down a little bit for me, just took a deep breath, slowed down 5%, that we can do great things. I think that’s where that comes from, right?
He’s now comfortable in his job and skin, understands and knows this team is being built around him. He can take a breath, be more calculated, not try to get it all right now in this moment.
I think at a place like Talladega, there’s equity in that. You have to be really intelligent and cerebral about how you approach the end of these races. He just did a perfect job today.
Q. You have two wins. How do you start preparing this team for a significant Playoff run? Do you not even start thinking about that?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I don’t even think we begin to have those conversations. I mean, I think that we’re here today, and we were where we were at COTA, the races leading up to COTA, just because we have a process that works. I think we just have to fundamentally stay committed to that process.
I think when you start talking about Playoff strategy, how you’re going to mount a run for the championship, that kind of mental bandwidth is reserved I think at this point for the teams that have been there a long time, right? That’s something that Gibbs talks about, Hendrick, and Penske talk about.
Trackhouse is so new, we can’t start thinking that way. We just have to focus on what we’re doing every week, just the execution of what we’re doing every week, that’s putting us in that position.
Obviously we’re contending for wins week in and week out. We just have to commit to that. I don’t think there’s going to be any conversation about Playoff strategy for the foreseeable future.
Q. The objective in this sport is to win anywhere you can. Talladega, there’s a certain cultural hold, mystique. As you continue to build Trackhouse, what does it do for your team as an organization, as a brand, to have staked your claim to having won at this racetrack?
JUSTIN MARKS: That’s a great question, an important question, because Talladega is so important in the history of this sport. It’s hallowed ground.
We were flying in here 10:00 this morning looking at all the campers, all the people here, going, Man. I flew with Tim Dugger. He said, When I close my eyes and think about America, I picture Talladega Superspeedway on NASCAR weekend.
How important this place is for Trackhouse, a new team. Obviously we won at COTA, sort of a new track. To come to hallowed ground like this and win, I mean, winning at Talladega, it’s just incredible. It’s incredible.
Q. I know you’re not thinking about how to manage the Playoffs yet, but where does Ross fit in right now in terms of title contenders? Only a couple guys with two wins.
JUSTIN MARKS: Things can change really quickly in this sport, right? We have a lot of momentum right now. Everybody is doing a great job bringing fast race cars to the racetrack. Things can change quickly, right?
Other teams, other manufacturers, they can find something really quickly. We’ve seen Tony Stewart do what he does through summer stretches, through the Playoffs. Resurgence or momentum can sort of come from anywhere, at any time.
I’m being honest when I say that “Playoffs” isn’t a word that’s uttered in our building at all. We still have to go to a lot of tracks with this race car that we’ve never been to before. We still have a lot to learn. We’re committed to the process of learning this car, figuring out the right approach to this car.
I’m being totally honest with you. We don’t talk about that at all because it’s so new, everything is just so new. We’re just trying to do a good job every day, you know what I mean?
Q. This morning Trackhouse Racing announced another new partner for the 2022 season and beyond. How much inventory, if any, do you have left for 2022 available?
JUSTIN MARKS: We don’t have any left in ’22. Honestly, we probably don’t have anything left in ’23. We’ve got a lot of momentum right now. What we’re doing is resonating with a lot of people. We’re authentic, we’re real. Obviously we’re winning, which is important.
This is a great sport. I mean, this is a sport where companies can come in and they can build brand awareness, they can grow their business. We’re just trying to position ourselves at Trackhouse as the most viable place for companies to come and do that.
I take a lot of pride in bringing two new companies to the sport, not only Worldwide Express, but Jockey that we announced on Monday. Tootsies, all the other stuff we have going on.
I just think that what we’re trying to do here is being successful, because I think this is a partnership-based business, and the partners are seeing that Trackhouse is a great place to be.
Q. Two wins in 10 races. You call yourselves disruptors. That’s quite a disruption in the sport. Is that what you expected at the beginning of the season?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I get that question a lot. My answer to that is, you know, all of us would not have put the work in to starting Trackhouse to just be here also, right, to be here, try to contend, try to do this.
We’re trying to establish ourselves, Trackhouse, as a company that can contend for championships in this sport for decades to come.
I would say that the expectation was that we would be here, but it’s happened quickly. Obviously it’s happened very, very quickly.
What comes with that, a lot of responsibility comes with that, too. Like I said earlier, it’s not going to be like this forever, right? There’s going to be a trough that we go through. There’s going to be times when — and it can happen at any point — other teams are strong, other OEMs are strong. We have to build a strong foundation so when those headwinds come, we can navigate them. We’re not a flash in the pan, we’re not, Remember when Trackhouse showed up and they were good for this period of time.
That fundamental work comes in just establishing what’s working right now, which is the fact we’re building a great culture. Everybody that works for Trackhouse loves working for the company, they’re excited about this car, they’re excited about the opportunity. That ends up being speed in the race car I believe with this new car. So yeah.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN MARKS: No, no. I had success, right? But my goals in 2022 were not in numbers of wins, points positions, one car makes the Playoffs. It was, and continues to be, making sure every week we get better and that we invest in each other and we learn this race car and we constantly improve. Those are the goals every week at Trackhouse, right?
The wins are nice, the results are nice, but that’s a by-product of the work we put in Monday through Friday. That just continues to be where we focus our attention.
Q. Do you think of yourselves as a model organization for any new ownership groups coming in?
JUSTIN MARKS: I hope so. I mean, I think that an element of what Trackhouse is doing feels a bit of a responsibility to do everything that we can to elevate the sport, right, to amplify the sport, to be good stewards of the sport.
If we’re doing great things out there, and it attracts people to emulate or inspires new ownership or other teams to do things, then I think that’s all good, right?
Everybody says, I spent a ton of money making the haulers look good, right? People have come up and said, Your haulers look awesome, haulers look amazing.
In a way it doesn’t really matter. But it does matter, right? If everybody comes in and goes, Your haulers look incredible, if that inspires every other team in the series to get super creative with how they manage their branding and their optics, and how they wrap their haulers, their pit boxes, their toolboxes, it’s sort of a rising tide. Raises all ships.
Trackhouse exists fundamentally because we freaking love NASCAR racing, love it. I love it. Like, I want to do something in this sport that’s great for Trackhouse. If I can contribute something that inspires all the other teams, new owners, then great, awesome, c’mon.
Q. Your relationship, friendship, with Kid Rock, how did that come to be? What is his involvement with the team?
JUSTIN MARKS: He just hangs out because he likes to go to the races. He’s just riding our coattails (laughter). I’m kidding.
We have a great partner in Tootsies. That partnership is so much more than just a bar on Broadway. Steve Smith, who owns Tootsies, owns Kid’s Rock, Honky Tonk Central, Rippy’s, The Diner. He’s a major hospitality powerhouse in Nashville. So being able to be partnered with somebody like him really brings the Nashville connection to what we’re doing. Bob is a huge supporter and friend of what we’re doing. Obviously him and Steve have that honky-tonk, Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk on Broadway.
It’s the power of Trackhouse in that town a little bit. People just love it and want to be a part of it.
Q. Chip Ganassi Racing only got two wins in its final two seasons. Since you brought over pretty much a majority of people who worked under that banner, different car, do you measure what you’re doing now compared to what Ganassi was able to accomplish in its closing days?
JUSTIN MARKS: It’s easy to do that. That’s pretty low-hanging fruit. In a time of transition you’re trying to measure yourself against what was before.
But honestly, I don’t really think about it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Chip Ganassi. I mean, I’ve raced for him for a number of years. I’ve been inspired by watching him and his teams race.
Things are just so different. I mean, we’ve kept a lot of people, but it’s an entirely new culture. The building looks different. We have this new car, new schedule.
That doesn’t really ever come to mind just because we’re just trying to do — our business strategy, our business model, is just so different.
To your point, it’s important to recognize, Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing, they have some ownership in this win and in our win in Austin. We have so many people that work for Trackhouse that worked at Chip Ganassi Racing, out of that building and everything.
But, you know, Trackhouse just can’t compare to Chip Ganassi because what we’re doing is just so different.
Q. I confirmed with Andy Pitre today the No. 33 skull car sitting at Trackhouse is the one that got the four wins in September of ’91. What drove you to get that car?
JUSTIN MARKS: I’m a huge fan of the sport. I want to be a steward of the sport’s history and the sport’s future. I’m fortunate enough at my house to have a Tim Richmond Blue Max Racing suit hanging on my wall. Liz Allison gave me one of Davy’s suits from ’93 that I have in the house.
If Trackhouse can make investments to help preserve the history of the sport, that’s kind of what we want to do. We want to honor the history of the sport.
Mr. September, here again, won all those races in that car for Andy Pitre. I told Andy, If you ever want to sell that car, I’ll buy it. It’s sitting right there.
I want NASCAR — I want to ask NASCAR if they’ll let me take a couple laps in it at Darlington on throwback weekend. I haven’t asked that question yet, but I’m asking it now (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: We’ll make sure it gets to the right spot.
Q. You’ve been preaching about balancing, building the culture. You know other teams are coming. How do you balance allowing your organization to enjoy and celebrate these successes but not getting too high?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I think celebrate it quick and get over it quick, right? After we won COTA, I told Ross, we were doing a bunch of media in the shop Tuesday afternoon, I’m like, I’m over Texas. I’m all about Richmond right now.
Just like we’re all going to be, what’s next, Dover, we’re all going to be Dover this week, right?
I think it’s what I’ve said about the fact that we’re super, super committed to just the day in and day out process. Our model of doing the work. That’s proven to be successful.
It’s a challenge. I mean, managing success is every bit as difficult. There comes a lot of responsibility with success. That means committing fundamentally to what got you there and the process of getting there, not expecting to be the team every week. Just basically us waking up, going to the shop on Monday morning, going we could suck at Dover this weekend, both cars could suck. The competition is out there to crush you every single week. That’s kind of how we think.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, for sure. That just comes with how we support each other and how we manage the narrative in the shop of just going, We’re doing something special here, but it’s an exercise in managing expectations too, because we have a lot of experience at Trackhouse. We’re a new team, but we have a lot of experience.
The cumulative experience of people that work for this team is hundreds of years in this sport. There are a lot of people in the company that would say, We’ve been on this ride before, too. We’ve won races, then just gotten crushed for a while.
We’re all doing a good job of how we manage the highs and the lows. I don’t think we get that low, and we don’t get that high. Today is fun. But this week we’ll be focused on Dover, know that’s an entirely different challenge again.
Q. Armando missed another win.
JUSTIN MARKS: When Armando said, I’m going to be at every race, that was an expression of passion, not scheduling, right? Look, I mean, it’s Pitbull, right? He’s touring, recording songs, releasing a song in two weeks, they’re doing a bunch of press around that.
I promise you that I will again call him this week and give him a bunch of shit for missing a race because he needs to be in Victory Lane with us.
Q. Has anyone heard from him?
JUSTIN MARKS: Oh, yeah, we were on the phone with him in Victory Lane.
Q. An update on your plans for Nashville. Now that you’re in the Ganassi shop, you’re changing things, where does Nashville stand?
JUSTIN MARKS: Look, the idea very, very early on was to try to build a race team based out of Nashville. That was the strategy when we were just shopping for a charter, then shopping for a charter became an acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing, which changed from building a company in Nashville to uprooting a company and moving it to Nashville, which was no longer viable, especially the relationship we have with Chevrolet and the tech center they’re building in Concord.
Trackhouse is more than a racing team. It’s a brand where we’re trying to inspire, we’re trying to activate in the intersection point between entertainment and motorsports.
We talked about it today. We had a number of conversations. It’s very much still in the business development strategy to have a brick-and-mortar presence in Nashville. It’s a matter of figuring out how that looks with our goals scaling as a race team.
A lot of it’s up in the air, but Nashville is so important to us. I think we’ve got some momentum in getting something special going there.
Q. How vital and how important has Ty been to just the infrastructure, the organization? Obviously his résumé suggests he’s done this before.
JUSTIN MARKS: Yeah, thank you for that.
Ty was the first person that I called when I really needed to have a meaningful discussion about what my ideas for this vision was. I needed to bounce it off of somebody that’s seen the highs, the lows, people come and go.
How many times have we seen in this sport, somebody comes in, they’re going to be the next great thing, it ends up not working out. I was business partners with Harry Scott for four years, right?
When I called Ty, I said, Look, I have this idea, it revolves around this new car. I need like a real bullshit meter. I need somebody to tell me this is a bad idea.
Ty saw it really, really quickly. He’s been instrumental because he knows so much about how this garage works, about how this business works. He continues to contribute so much to this company because he just has such a great understanding of how the sport works.
But he’s also at a point in his life where he’s not getting any younger, he’s about to be 57. He sees Trackhouse as his swan song in the sport. He worked for Dale Earnhardt, NWR, and Toyota. I think he gets really excited about this Trackhouse project really challenging him. Everything that he’s done in his life, that final kind of thing in his career that he really makes an impact in this sport.
He’s a soldier, super loyal. The guy works way harder than I ask him to work. He’s super, super vital to us.
Q. He said everybody has brought up the glory days with Jeff and the 3 car. He said right now these are the glory days, he’s going to look back on it like that.
JUSTIN MARKS: I love hearing that. I want everybody that works for this company to feel like they’ve got a great job and feel like they’re doing important work.
Q. We talked in L.A. about when you were first brought onboard, overriding the underdog mentality. You said you’re no longer the underdog, you’re a contender. Could you provide me insight into that conversation, how important that was into getting into a championship mindset?
JUSTIN MARKS: I’m going to answer that first and then let you have the stage because I’m going back to Nashville.
ROSS CHASTAIN: Can I go with you?
JUSTIN MARKS: Yes. You got to talk quick, can’t do the long answers.
I don’t even remember the question.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN MARKS: Thank you.
I met Ross 10 years ago, 10 or 11 years ago. I’m a huge, huge fan of his talent. What I told him when the Ganassi acquisition happened, when I offered him the job, was that Trackhouse sees an opportunity, that my goal for Trackhouse, what it’s doing, is an opportunity to be great in this sport, and you are a championship driver.
I’ve seen the whole time I’ve watched him race, raced against him, watched him come up, this is a championship-contending talent at the NASCAR Cup Series level, period. This new car represents an opportunity for us to make a statement quickly to where if we came in with a Gen-6 car, the Gen-5 car, we’re up against teams that have so much engineering depth and money. Now we’re all kind of playing with the same ball. I say if we can build a team around this ball, give you control of it, we can really, really do great things.
So it’s like we’re not an underdog in the sense that I feel like we can go on any weekend and win. But I have so much respect for these organizations that race in this series. We can’t come in here and say, We’re better than Hendrick or Gibbs.
Like I said earlier, any one of these teams have so much talent and engineering depth, at any point they can find momentum and we can get knocked back a little bit and have to find our way out.
I do believe that Trackhouse is here to stay, we’ve arrived, and what we’re doing is investing a lot of money, time, and resources into establishing ourselves as a championship-contending team for decades to come.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, thank you.
JUSTIN MARKS: That was the short answer (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to get started with our post-race press conference here at Talladega Superspeedway, at the GEICO 500, with our race-winning crew chief, Phil Surgen.
Take us through those last laps from your seat on the pit box.
PHIL SURGEN: It’s a speedway race, so I’ve grown to expect that with five to go, you can’t tell what’s going to happen at the end. With two to go, you can’t tell what’s going to happen at the end.
Frankly, coming off of four in the top group of cars, you don’t really know what to expect yet. You know there’s going to be a wreck at the start/finish line. So many times I’ve been on the other end of it.
Unlike downforce races or road course races where you know you have a good car, a bad car, here you don’t know what’s going to happen.
It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, but you kind of stay calm. As it transpires, it’s like, Man, it becomes more and more clear in the last few seconds that we won the race. A great day for us.
THE MODERATOR: Based on some of the notes we have, this car that you won with today is the same car you won with in COTA, is that correct?
PHIL SURGEN: That’s correct.
THE MODERATOR: Can you tell us about that.
PHIL SURGEN: Really comes down to just the whole Next Gen platform. All the cars are the same, have the same range of adjustments, same group of parts.
All the cars right now are essentially universal. We took that car after it was done at COTA, cleaned it up, set it up a little bit differently to come here. There’s no reason it can’t race at a different type of track, an oval, next time, downforce oval.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions.
Q. Ross was saying he was going to stay there and not move. He didn’t want to make a mistake. Did you talk about that or did he come to that decision on his own?
PHIL SURGEN: In the moment he comes to that decision on his own. Obviously leading up to the event, we’ve talked through a lot of different scenarios. One word that keeps reoccurring is “patience.” You have to be calculated in your moves and have patience. That’s exactly what he did. He executed perfectly.
Q. Two wins. Did you have any idea you guys had that in you?
PHIL SURGEN: I knew this group of guys had the potential in them. Whether we were going to get ’em or not is a different story. After the first win and really after the consistency in the top five, the instances we haven’t finished in the top five, honestly it’s been engine, it’s been wrecks. We’ve had strong-performing cars everywhere.
I have all the confidence in the world in this group that we can continue to run, be a contender every week.
Q. Can you use this car every week?
PHIL SURGEN: It would be really difficult to turn it around every week. Every third or fourth week, with the cleanup and the prep time that goes into it, you could use it every third or fourth week pretty easily.
Q. Do you know, is this car, for whatever reason, a better car than the others in your fleet?
PHIL SURGEN: No, I would say it’s exactly the same. In fact, there’s so many parts on ’em that are interchangeable, there’s likely a different group of parts on this car than there was, on the chassis element, than there was on the car when it raced at COTA.
Q. Ross has talked about he’s always been an aggressive driver, but trying to control that in certain situations. Patience may have played a role in what he was able to do today where maybe he wouldn’t have been able to have done as well at some other point.
PHIL SURGEN: I’ve certainly seen a little evolution in my time with Ross. I didn’t work with Ross before the start of the ’21 season. Likely it was different prior to that.
But just from last year to this year, I certainly have seen that evolve a little bit. His patience inside the car has been better. He’s just generally calm. That comes with confidence and that comes with us providing him cars that are capable and crews that are capable of working on ’em and pitting ’em.
Q. These 20-something-year-old drivers are winning week after week. From your time in the sport, are you continuing to be surprised about this? Is it the new car? Are you riding that wave with Ross right now?
PHIL SURGEN: There certainly is an element of the new car this year. It’s kind of mixed things up a little bit.
I’m not surprised to see the younger drivers contending every week. If you look back maybe over the last 20 years, the level of preparation has changed over time.
Right now the guys that are the 20-somethings got into the sport when that level of preparation had elevated itself. The guys that are 20-somethings right now are doing things a lot differently than the veterans have in the past.
Some of the veterans have tried to adapt, but that’s an edge that the younger drivers have.
Q. When the season started, would you have picked a road course and a superspeedway as the two tracks where Ross would break through?
PHIL SURGEN: In my opinion, superspeedway, no. Road course, yes. I think you look back at our results from last year, we were strong at all the road courses, arguably stronger than we were on the ovals. I expected to be strong on the road courses this year.
Superspeedways, I feel like we have all of the elements to compete, but there’s always that element of luck that you never can count on.
Q. What was the mindset or strategy, how pitting worked? Seemed like passing was difficult, it was kind of about leapfrogging on pit road.
PHIL SURGEN: Yeah, generally speaking, when it comes to the manufacturer’s strategies, it’s a pretty tall order to get that many people organized and communicated appropriately to choose a pit lap or to choose a pit scenario, how many tires, how much fuel. You use more fuel in the front of the pack than you do in the middle of the pack.
Trying to accommodate the group you’re going to pit with, communicate all that well, and execute, is the most difficult element of that.
We can look back at history, we can look back at early in this race. When we were in stage three, we looked back early in the race to see what happened to try to identify any elements of that that might be advantageous to incorporate in the strategy in the closing laps.
THE MODERATOR: Phil, congratulations. Thank you.