The news last summer was swift and surprising: Chip Ganassi, the famed race team owner with teams all over the racing landscape and a trophy case rivaled by few in the sport, was making a clean break from NASCAR. For millions, Ganassi sold his two-car operation to Justin Marks and Trackhouse Racing Team — an upstart outfit with a young, new owner (and Pitbull as a partner) intent on plotting a new path to success at NASCAR’s top level. Any of those post-2021 plans for Ganassi’s teams were no more.
One of Ganassi’s two drivers, Kurt Busch, was already well-positioned in the free-agent market and making new plans for 2022. But Ross Chastain? For him, the 2021 season was supposed to be the start of something longer. It was his first full-time Cup ride with a team that could win. And just as quickly as it started, it all could have been gone.
So Chastain got on the phone. He knew Marks well — the two met when they shared split races at a Camping World Truck Series team more than a decade ago — and had stayed in touch.
“When the acquisition happened, I told Justin, I just texted him and said, ‘I want this,’” Chastain says. “It was just simple. I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t confer with anybody. I knew Justin on that level, and I wanted it.”
Marks expected the call and got to work. The prior relationship made it easy. Chastain’s growing relationship with Chevrolet helped. And Marks’ evaluation of Chastain’s driving style put it over the finish line. A few weeks later, the deal was signed. Trackhouse Racing Team had its two drivers for 2022: Chastain and its existing wheelman, Daniel Suárez.
“Just like Daniel, Ross is one of those guys where when he’s been sitting in race-winning equipment, he’s gotten the job done,” Marks says. “And that’s the talent and the skill that is independent of just how fast you can go. There are a lot of guys who have sat in real fast stuff and not figured out how to close. We’ve got two winners on this race team now, two closers on this race team.”
It didn’t hurt that Chastain hit the peak of his performance last season when he was trying to land the new ride.
Last summer, Chastain had three of his best finishes during a four-race span: fourth at Circuit of the Americas, seventh at Sonoma Raceway and second at Nashville Superspeedway. Chastain ultimately missed the playoffs and had his struggles later in the season, but Marks and Trackhouse were unwavering in their commitment to him. They showed that commitment by giving Chastain a multi-year contract for the first time in his Cup career.
Now, Chastain is set to hit the track this season with a new car, a new number and a new paint job. But the Trackhouse acquisition of Ganassi means that much will be the same. In the offseason, Trackhouse moved all of its racing operations into the former Ganassi shop. The team also acquired several of Ganassi’s former employees, including Chastain’s crew chief Phil Surgen, who will retain his role.
“I’ve been fired, and I’ve left teams, and I’ve done a lot of things, and I could do a lot of things better,” Chastain said last summer. “But to bring it full circle with somebody I’ve known my entire time in this sport and do it with this group, I mean this when I say it truly feels like it’s more than just another team.”