Through the Field: All-Star Stories
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has been nothing but stellar so far, and it’s brought to light continued success for two of the best stories in the Cup Series at the moment.
These stories aren’t new to race fans and may not even be new to this column. Still, it’s worth sharing them again because they’re such great tales of perseverance. Their never-give-up attitudes have taken these two drivers from down and out to victory lane at stock car racing’s highest levels.
The Melon Man
The first is that of two-time 2022 Cup Series race winner Ross Chastain, who time and again had earned the opportunities to race in top-tier equipment and had them fall apart with a staggering amount of fortune going against him.
Nearly 10 years ago, Chastain was one of the drivers at Brad Keselowski Racing, the 2012 Cup champion’s Truck Series team. The team would later go on to win races and develop many of the current stars of the sport today, but Chastain didn’t even see the end of that team in 2017. He had already needed to pick up rides with smaller and underfunded teams.
He performed well enough there to earn what was first a limited deal and then a full-season agreement with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity Series team.
There he was – one step away from the top with a chance to compete for a second-tier series title – and it was canceled because the sponsor backing him was raided by the FBI and forced to shut down.
But Ganassi didn’t forget about Chastain.
After helping to improve a mid-tier Truck Series team and showing that he had what it takes to compete in a Kaulig Racing Xfinity car, Chastain was the full-time driver for Ganassi’s flagship No. 42 car for 2021.
And then Ganassi, four months into the deal, elected to sell his team to the owners of Trackhouse Racing. Would they want to keep Chastain? Would they be competitive enough for him to continue growing and show that he could do it at the top level?
Fortunately, the answer to both of those questions was yes.
And, of course, what better time than the present to once again reflect on how wild it is that Kurt Busch can still win in the Cup Series?
I won’t rehash the entire story here, as it’s well-known to race fans. But Kurt Busch – the elder Busch brother – was on top, having won a championship. He then threw it all away with multiple top-team owners and was forced to step down to unsponsored cars barely hanging on. Now, he is back in top-tier rides helping team after team get better and reach their full potential. It has been just amazing to see.
Busch is the ultimate sign of why you should never stop working to better yourself.
But perhaps we can give the drivers a pass on one sinful action this weekend – a lust for money. As the yearly edition of the All-Star Race, which hands a million-dollar check to the winning team, returns to Texas.
The oval in the Lone Star State, known as perhaps the biggest snooze-fest in NASCAR the last few years, is hoping to get the same boost in action and competitiveness that the Next-Gen car has brought to other similar racetracks. Among the drivers already locked into the race, here are some of the teams to watch and invest in if playing fantasy or betting.
Drivers to Watch in the NASCAR All-Star Race
Chase Elliott: The sport’s most popular driver will be looking for his second All-Star win in three years after taking home the event in 2020 at Bristol. I expect all the Hendrick cars to be competitive, but I believe the No. 9 will be the class of them all.
Kevin Harvick: I can’t think of a better time for Kevin Harvick to get his mojo back than here. Crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 team can take a big swing on putting together a badass, fast car without points to worry about. Perhaps they set Harvick off on a roll with confidence heading into the summer.
Bubba Wallace: Now that 23XI Racing is over the line with its first win in the new car, I wouldn’t expect it to be the last this season. With how well Bubba Wallace ran at Kansas, you know he will be hungry to get back out there and get his team back to victory lane. If anyone in the field will go all-in and do whatever it takes to “not run third and take all the money” (well, short of Kyle Busch at least), it will be Wallace.
Thanks for reading. For more fantasy NASCAR picks and life advice, follow me on Twitter, @EHicks39, or check out more of my work at Elliot-Hicks.com.