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The Camping World Truck Series returns to action Saturday afternoon (Oct. 13) at Talladega Superspeedway after nearly a month off from competition. But for one driver, it will be his last start in NASCAR.
Wendell Chavous announced Monday (Oct. 8) that he will be stepping away from the Truck Series indefinitely following Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250.
“There comes a time in everyone’s life when you reach a crossroads and have to make a life-changing decision,” the statement posted to Chavous’ Twitter and Facebook accounts said. “I recently arrived at my own crossroads, and I had to make a life-changing decision too.
“This decision was not made easily, and I did not make it in haste. It took me a long time to fully embrace and feel good about making this choice,” Chavous’ statement continued. “I truly know in my heart it is the right thing to do for me and for my family as well.”
The reasoning? Chavous listed multiple.
“The NASCAR schedule is very demanding, and I’m away from home a lot more than I’d like to be,” Chavous explained. “I have a four-year-old son who is growing up very fast, and I’ve missed important times in his life because of my racing career. That has weighed heavily on me.
“I am a father first, and I want to be there for him to guide him and watch him grow up. He is racing go-karts now and is quite the little wheelman. It is important to me that I not miss any of his upcoming races.”
Of course, his son isn’t the only family member that weighed heavy on Chavous’ mind as he made his decision.
“My wife and my family have been very understanding of my schedule and have allowed me the ability to live out my dreams of being a race car driver even when they undoubtedly needed me at home,” Chavous continued. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done and sacrificed to help me be successful in my racing career.”
If his family isn’t reason enough to walk away from racing, Chavous owns and operates Steel Barn Truss, a Georgia-based “steel truss manufacturing company that strives to produce the best steel trusses in the industry.” In fact, Chavous himself inspects every truss before it’s finalized, when it’s “dipped in an asphalt-based coating for maximum longevity and consistency.”
“It requires an exuberant amount of my time. I have been fortunate, and my company has grown exponentially over the past few years, which I am grateful for,” Chavous said. “In order for my company to continue growing, I have to devote much more of my time and effort into my business so it can continue to be successful well into the future.”
As we’ve seen with drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Carl Edwards — or more recently Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler — walking away from the sport is like saying goodbye to a large part of your life.
“To everyone in the garage who became my second family, I will miss you all. We had some great times and some tough times, but they are times I will never forget. I wish each of my competitors well and thank them for the lessons learned.
“I want to thank every crew chief and crew member I have ever worked with for giving it their all so I could do my best. I thank you for keeping me safe in my race trucks, and I will not forget their countless hours of hard work and dedication during the years we raced together as a team.
“Most importantly, I want to thank my fans who have always been there for me. Whether it was a kind word either in person or on a social post, your well wishes toward me did not go unnoticed. To all those who asked for my autograph, I thank you for making this ordinary Georgia boy feel like a rockstar! I will never forget it, and I think I will miss those interactions most of all.”
When he hangs up his helmet, the 33-year-old will have made 50 Truck Series starts, including all 19 races this season. Chavous will retire with a career-best 12th-place finish, a feat he accomplished twice this season (Daytona International Speedway in February and Texas Motor Speedway in June).
“I want to sincerely thank everyone at Premium Motorsports for allowing me the opportunity to drive for them,” Chavous’ letter continued. “Jay Robinson took a chance on me, and I am forever grateful to him and his entire organization. I also want to thank all my sponsors for their support. It has meant the world to me, and I could have done any of this without them.
“I can’t thank NASCAR enough for providing the ultimate platform which has turned my dreams into reality.
Driving for Premium Motorsports for all but three of his career starts, Chavous had a knack for avoiding trouble on the track and bringing his equipment home in one piece, which is an essential talent for any driver with a low budget team. The likelihood that he would have ever been a championship contender is slim-to-none, but that doesn’t take away his ability to take care of his equipment.
“We are so proud of how Wendell [Chavous] has represented Sobriety Nation both on and off the track. Wendell is a man of humility and integrity,” Joe Testino, president of Sobriety Nation, which sponsored Chavous this season, said. “We admire Wendell for making the difficult decision to put his family and business before his own desires to race professionally. Wendell Chavous will always be a winner in our eyes!”
Though recent departures in the Truck Series came on a bit of a sour note thanks to sponsorship problems, this one isn’t the same.
“I want everyone to know that I am not sour about my decision to step away from racing at all,” Chavous closed his letter by saying. “I am leaving with my head held high and with no regrets. I am excited for my family and for what our future together holds.”
While it’s completely understandable to see a driver choose their family and living life away from the race track, you have to wonder about NASCAR and whether it’s as desirable as it once was. Sure, there are still plenty who are passionate to continue racing and will do so for many years to come, but the rate at which drivers are walking away in recent years is a little alarming.