NASCAR: What is Chip Ganassi’s plan for Ross Chastain?

Ross Chastain, Roush Fenway Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Ross Chastain, Roush Fenway Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Ross Chastain had been rumored to replace Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing for the rest of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. That won’t happen, but it doesn’t mean he won’t join the team in the near future.

When Kyle Larson said the N-word during a NASCAR race on iRacing that was being live streamed on multiple Twitch channels, all eyes turned to Ross Chastain amid speculation that Larson had competed in his final race behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Indeed, it did not take long before Larson was suspended indefinitely and lost multiple sponsors, leaving Chip Ganassi with just one decision, a decision he ultimately made by firing the 27-year-old Elk Grove, California native.

Chastain had long been seen as the next Chip Ganassi Racing Cup Series driver given his ties to the team, whether that had been as the replacement for Larson, who had been in a contract year, after the 2020 season or the replacement for Kurt Busch after the 2021 season.

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After impressing in three starts for the organization’s Xfinity Series team in 2018, he had been slated to drive full-time for them in 2019 before sponsorship issues caused the team to fold.

The 27-year-old Alva, Florida native competed in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway for Spire Motorsports through a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing, and he is set to do the same thing at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 24.

Chastain has competed in all four Cup Series races so far this season, as he has since filled in as the replacement for the injured Ryan Newman at Roush Fenway Racing. As a result, he would have been eligible to compete for the championship as Chip Ganassi Racing’s new driver.

So it came as a shock to many when Chip Ganassi Racing selected a driver who is more than two decades older than Chastain to replace Larson for the remainder of the 2020 season, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth.

On one level, it makes sense, as Chastain is currently competing for points in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing. He sits in fifth place in the championship standings, and declaring for Cup Series points would cause him to withdraw his Xfinity Series eligibility.

But with the 2020 season already looking the way it looks for the #42 team, fans still questioned why Ganassi wouldn’t have plugged Chastain into the car to get more experience at NASCAR’s highest level, even without the ability to score points.

His decision not to do that, however, has not changed anything as far as the connection between Chastain and the team and the potential future they have together in the Cup Series.

Here is what Ganassi had to say about the matter, according to AP News.

"“We’ve got plans for him.”"

Whether that means he is set to be the new full-time driver of the #42 Chevrolet next year or as the new driver of the #1 Chevrolet beginning in the 2022 season if Busch doesn’t renew his contract, nobody knows.

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But don’t think for one second that Ganassi passing on Chastain as Larson’s replacement for the 2020 season means that he is no longer seen as long-term option for the organization.