NASCAR's top free agent was quickly off the market

Ross Chastain was set to enter the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season without a contract to compete in 2024, but that quickly changed.
Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher, NASCAR
Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher, NASCAR / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

After a chaotic NASCAR Cup Series silly season unfolded throughout 2022, highlighted by Kyle Busch leaving Joe Gibbs Racing for Richard Childress Racing and Tyler Reddick leaving Richard Childress Racing a year early for 23XI Racing, there was potential for more in 2023.

Several big-name drivers entered 2023 without contracts to compete in 2024, but before the season started, a number of teams announced extensions, including Hendrick Motorsports re-signing Alex Bowman through 2026.

Also set to enter the season without a contract to compete in 2024 was the driver who earned his first two victories in 2022, qualified for the playoffs for the first time, and finished in second place in the championship standings in his first year with his current team: Ross Chastain.

Chastain joined Chip Ganassi Racing full-time in 2021, but he lost his ride when the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned Trackhouse Racing Team, which were then running one car for Daniel Suarez, acquired the organization.

But Trackhouse Racing Team expanded from one car to two for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season

In doing so, they signed Ross Chastain to a two-year contract.

"Trackhouse gave me my first multi-year deal when we first signed together for 2022 and 2023," Chastain told Beyond the Flag. "I had never had it on paper to be locked in and secured for more than one year."

It was a huge change for the 30-year-old watermelon farmer from Alva, Florida, and in a way, it put him in a position where many drivers would have been faced with additional pressure.

All he did was go on to have a career year and nearly walk away with a championship for a team that hadn't even been competing 24 months prior.

"A lot of times, I didn’t even have a contract," Chastain, who has competed in NASCAR on some level since 2011, said of his many pre-Trackhouse deals. "It was an email that said, 'let’s go race.' It was just a physical handshake. Nothing down on text, email, nothing confirming that we were going to race all year. But we always figured it out."

Before the silly season rumors could really start to heat up about NASCAR's top free agent -- though Chastain had, in fact, already been linked (if you even want to call it that) to Stewart-Haas Racing as Kevin Harvick's replacement -- Trackhouse Racing Team locked him up for the long haul.

dark. Next. NASCAR: Two driver changes not yet announced for 2024. NASCAR: Two driver changes not yet announced for 2024

"So when Justin came to me when he acquired CGR, it was for two years, and then they came back to me and said, ‘we like this, we like you, we want to do this with you for a long time,’ so I was all in."