Ross Chastain's pre-season odds to win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship were 7,000:1.
The combination of an eighth-generation watermelon farmer and the Justin Marks' owned Trackhouse Racing team, competing for the first time as a multicar team, led prognosticators in February to predict 15 drivers would have a better title chance than Chastain.
They were wrong.
Nine months and 35 races later, the 29-year-old Alva, Fla. native joins Joey Logano, Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott competing Sunday for the sport’s biggest prize in a winner-take all showdown at Phoenix Raceway.
Chastain secured his place in the title race by performing perhaps one of the greatest maneuvers in NASCAR history last Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The No. 1 Chevrolet was 10th and two points outside of transferring into the championship race until Chastain shifted to never-used fifth gear at Martinsville, mashed the throttle and rode the wall through turns three and four on the final lap.
His final lap was 18.845 seconds – a new track record – the next fastest time on the last lap was 20.508 seconds by Kyle Larson.
In what looked more like a video game than reality, Chastain drove by five cars and into the final four leaving fans, media and fellow competitors stunned. The move has been the subject of countless videos, hours of debate and will likely go down as one of the great moments in history.
But Chastain, who practiced the move with his brother Chad on a GameCube 2005 console, reminded race fans and media that it wasn’t just that move that secured Sunday’s chance for a championship.
“I know that will be the focus," Chastain said. “But, let's not forget the path of Trackhouse to get here, how unorthodox we are. How we took a building and a team, and then we brought in another team to build this team as a family. We've got more buy-in on the shop floor than I've ever witnessed in a race team. I'm so proud to get to do it with this group."
Last Sunday in Martinsville has a great deal of meaning to Chastain
"Bigger than the last lap, just remember the fact we are putting ourselves in position to just have a shot at a championship. That's all we ask for.”
Chastain will participate in media day Wednesday in Charlotte before flying to Phoenix that evening. The Cup Series will practice on Friday, qualify Saturday and race on Sunday. NBC will televise the race at 3 p.m. ET.
The Chevrolets of Chastain and teammate Daniel Suárez will sport paint schemes honoring Trackhouse Racing’s corporate sponsors at Phoenix this weekend.
"We owe so many people so much that we wanted to salute all of our sponsors this weekend," he said. "Without each of them, there's no way we would have the opportunity that we have on Sunday."