NASCAR: Ross Chastain to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021

Ross Chastain, Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Ross Chastain, Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Ross Chastain is set to replace Matt Kenseth behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Ross Chastain is finally slated to get the opportunity that many fans saw him getting earlier this season. He is set to drive the #42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing on a full-time basis in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, replacing 2003 champion Matt Kenseth alongside 2004 champion Kurt Busch behind the wheel of the #1 Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson started the 2020 season as the driver of the #42 Chevrolet, a role he had held since the 2014 campaign. But back in April during the 10-week hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic after just four races had been contested, he was fired, as he used a racial slur during an iRacing event and lost multiple sponsors in the days that followed.

Chastain was widely tipped to replace Larson at that time, but Chip Ganassi unexpectedly turned to the then-retired Kenseth. However, he noted that he still “had a plan” for the 27-year-old Alva, Florida native.

That plan has now been solidified. Here is what Chastain had to say about the opportunity, according to the Associated Press.

"“I can’t thank Chip enough for this opportunity. The faith he and the organization showed me back in 2018 was a real turning point in my career and I am extremely happy for the chance to join the team again. Racing in the Cup Series with a serious contender has always been my goal, and I’m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to get to work and help bring more success to the organization.”"

Here is what Ganassi had to say in a team release.

"“Ross has been a part of this organization for a few years now, and I am happy to announce him as our driver for the No. 42 team. In three races with our organization in 2018 and watching ever since, he showed me and everyone else that he is a tenacious driver who wants to win. We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around. Additionally, his racing background has him well-suited to make the move to the Cup Series.”"

Chastain made his debut for the team in the 2018 Xfinity Series season on a three-race deal. He dominated the race at Darlington Raceway after starting from the pole position, leading 90 of 147 laps, but a late wreck with Kevin Harvick knocked him out of contention.

He dominated and won the following race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading 180 of 200 laps, and he finished in second place in his final start for the team at Richmond Raceway.

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He had been slated to compete full-time for the team’s Xfinity Series program in 2019, but a sponsorship debacle led to that deal being thrown out the window, and he ended up competing full-time for Niece Motorsports in the Truck Series after having not competed full-time in that series since 2012 when he drove for SS-Green Light Racing.

While he hasn’t competed for the team since then, he maintained his ties with the organization and landed a Cup Series deal to compete for Spire Motorsports in a Chip Ganassi Racing-supported entry in multiple races this season.

Chastain also filled in for the injured Ryan Newman behind the wheel of the #6 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing for three races before the pandemic hit following Newman’s terrifying last-lap Daytona 500 crash.

In 79 career Cup Series starts, including 71 driving for the underfunded Premium Motorsports team from 2017 to 2019, his average finish is 27.7 and his top finish is 10th place in the 2019 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. His best finish in eight starts so far this year is his 16th place finish in last month’s race at the same venue.

He currently competes full-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series in what is his fifth season as a full-time driver at NASCAR’s second highest level. He competed full-time for JD Motorsports from 2015 to 2018.

After a third place finish in the regular season standings with 13 top five finishes and a series-high 23 top 10 finishes through 26 races, he sits in eighth in the standings to open up the playoffs due to an overall lack of playoff points stemming from his lack of wins. His average finish ranks third in the series at 7.9.

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Chastain, who won three Truck Series races last year en route to a runner-up finish in the championship standings, has two career Xfinity Series victories, with his second having come in the July race at Daytona International Speedway last year for Kaulig Racing.