NASCAR: Ross Chastain capitalizing on unlikely connection

Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Ross Chastain, a watermelon farmer before becoming a NASCAR driver, spoke about how he is able to tie the two together as he competes from week to week.

Before a few years ago, nobody would have found any sort of connection between driving a stock car in the NASCAR Cup Series and growing watermelons.

Ross Chastain has changed that in a resounding way.

Hired by Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 as the full-time replacement for Kyle Larson behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet, Chastain found himself without a ride for 2022 when the organization was acquired by Trackhouse Racing Team.

The Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team were running just one car at the time, the No. 99 Chevrolet, for Daniel Suarez. When they acquired Chip Ganassi’s team, they expanded to two cars, and they opted to put Chastain in the second, the No. 1 Chevrolet.

In his first season with the new team, Chastain earned the first two races of his Cup Series career, and he continued his tradition of smashing a watermelon to celebrate, a tradition which started when he earned his first career Xfinity Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing.

He advanced to the playoffs for the first time in his career, and he parlayed that into a Championship 4 appearance, where he finished in second place in the standings. The 2023 season also saw him win twice, but he was eliminated two rounds earlier.

Ross Chastain has capitalized on the opportunity to use his platform as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver to promote watermelons and agriculture.

“During racing season, it’s tough,” Chastain told Beyond the Flag when asked about how he balances racing with watermelon farming.

“We’re chasing checkered flags and we want to promote watermelons and ag through smashing them in victory lane, or just talking about them in general and educating people on where their food comes from when they do have genuine questions [about] what we’re doing in ag to grow healthier food and to feed this world.”

He stressed the importance of farming in terms of its impact on the planet and discussed his family’s longtime involvement in it.

“There’s a very small percentage of this population on earth that are in charge of feeding the rest of us, and I’ll put myself in the latter category,” he said. “My career, my day job, is to go race in NASCAR. I can’t be at the farm every week. But my dad, brother, I have uncles, cousins, aunts, a large part of my immediate family is in agriculture, day to day, growing watermelons.

“The agriculture industry is like a huge family. And so through our promotion at the NASCAR level, I’ve been able to, in a unique way, meet farmers from across this country and other countries that are fans of NASCAR, see what we’re doing and reach out and introduce themselves and we’re able to meet.”

He discussed the fact that, in addition to promoting, he continues to learn more and more, even with his extensive farming background.

“Over the years, I’ve been able to stop at farms around the country and just learn,” he continued. “You’d be amazed at how little I know about row crops, but getting to go to corn and bean farms and getting to see high-yield operations, and turning that into even other wild things that are grown in this country, across this country, that I don’t know about? I get to naturally meet them and learn about their operation.

“I’m always educating myself on agriculture. I’m always educating myself on everything, honestly. I don’t ever want to stop learning. It’s my job now to promote it and to speak about what I’m learning and use this platform for more than just the selfish reason of wanting to win races.”

Racing and watermelon farming is pretty much his life.

“Man, I’m pretty simple, I’ll be honest,” he admitted. “This is my life. I’m living NASCAR. I’m living the competition and the desire to be better. I’ve got at least 35 other drivers every week in Cup races, in chartered cars, who are capable of winning, and they are getting better. And I will always keep trying to be better myself.

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“I enjoy going back to the farm in December, taking some time and just being there, putting in a few hours on the tractor. Not too many, but enough. Other than that, I just live a normal life.”