Ross Chastain had 'nothing to lose' in chasing NASCAR Trucks championship

Ross Chastain wants to make history by successfully executing a last minute bid to make the NASCAR Trucks playoffs.

Ross Chastain had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

That was the genesis of the thought process that led Chastain to making a midseason championship switch from the NASCAR Xfinity Series to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Chastain has been christened the busiest driver in NASCAR, due to making every start across all three national tours this season, but league rules require drivers to select just one division in which to accrue championship points.

After starting the season in Xfinity, Chastain has now decided to make a run at the Truck Series championship, with just eight races remaining in the regular season.

The 26-year-old reached that conclusion as the sum of several factors. Most notably, he won the May Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway, the zenith of his yearlong tenure with Niece Motorsports. Since joining the team last summer, Chastain has elevated Al Niece’s program into a contender and the organization has invested into him with increased support that has allowed him to chase victories all season.

At the same time, Chastain has recently fallen outside of a provisional playoff spot in the Xfinity Series.

So, while there were other factors involved, Chastain decided that he wanted to pursue a Truck Series championship instead of merely attempting to make the Xfinity Series playoff grid.

“This isn’t how any of us at JD Motorsports wanted this to go, but if in six months or 60 years, if it turns out to be a mistake, it’s on me,” Chastain told Autoweek with enthusiastic conviction on Friday. “It’s 100 percent my decision. No one else can take blame if it goes wrong or messes up my future.

“It’s on me and I want to do this. It came together late and felt like the right decision. No one else has done this before. I started the season with the most consecutive NASCAR starts to start the season and now we’re going to go after another record. We’re going to try to do something incredible.”

Chastain has eight races to win his way into the playoffs.

If we didn’t think we could show up to the next eight races with a chance to win them, we wouldn’t be here doing this. In addition to his Kansas victory, which doesn’t count for playoff advancement, he has top-10s in all eight races. His 6.4 average finish is tied for second overall in the series.

Oh, there’s also the matter of no more Kyle Busch, who won all five of his allowed starts over the first eight races.

“We won’t always have the fastest truck but we’re going to be competitive,” Chastain said. “So why not come to a team that is putting in this kind of effort to win. I can still run my full schedule on the Xfinity and Cup side.”

It’s also worth mentioning that the difference between making or missing the playoffs in the Xfinity championship only amounts to rough 10 grand — clearly not worth the return on investment to buy the tires, wind tunnel time and an engine lease needed to take that next step right now. Conversely, to win a championship would both pay handsomly, and add to Chastain’s growing reputation as an elite talent.

“With the effort, we can go anywhere and win,” Chastain said. “I don’t know what our best shot is. What’s crazy to me is that I’ve gone to Iowa in a Truck and I’ve qualified on the pole and finished second. Then Gateway, I’ve just started and parked.

“If this isn’t a diverse start of this thing for me, I don’t know what is. That’s just crazy to me, that I’ve gone from start and parking at a place one year ago to chasing a championship shot the next. I wanted this opportunity and like I said, for good or bad, it’s on me.”

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