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Ross Chastain has had one heck of a season. He’s started every NASCAR race this season to date and even took Niece Motorsports to its first Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory at Kansas Speedway last month.
Earlier this week, Chastain announced he would switch to earning Truck Series points and attempt to make a run at the championship. Because Friday’s race (June 7) at Texas Motor Speedway was the first he was declared for Truck points, he started the race with zero points. Also, because his Kansas victory came while he was declared for Xfinity Series points, it doesn’t count toward playoff eligibility. Chastain has to win again and climb into the top 20 in points to be playoff eligible.
Chastain is referring to the task at hand as the “Melon Man Challenge.”
Fast forward to the SpeedyCash.com 400 where Chastain qualified 15th. Putting his truck anywhere there wasn’t another already racing, the driver of the No. 38 Chevrolet worked his way through the field and even looked like he may have a shot at the win.
But when all was said and done, late pit road strategy ended what could have been a winning race. Chastain took the checkered flag 10th and was also the only Niece Motorsports driver left running after his teammates Kyle Benjamin and Angela Ruch faced early problems in stage one.
“The fastest truck didn’t win tonight. We had it,” Chastain bluntly stated after the race. “It might not have showed it lap-leading wise, but we had the best truck. It’s just a shame we weren’t able to capitalize, but that’s all we need to do is bring fast trucks every week, and it will take care of itself.”
Slicing and dicing his way through the field, Chastain noted the intensity faced on the track throughout the field.
“Guys were pinching really hard and racing really hard,” he explained. “They just act like you’re not even there. You saw the [No.] 16 wrecked the [No.] 13, and he tried to wreck me. I don’t know why he’s doing that.
“He knows what this air does and he wrecked one of the fastest trucks, damaged his and continued to do the same to me. I guess it’s inexperience and inability to learn.”
Just one race into his 2019 playoff campaign, the recipe for success for the late entry is simple.
“We keep bringing the trucks like we’ve been bringing all year and we’re going to win races,” he said. “If nothing else, we’re going to have a lot of fun doing this. It’s so much fun to come and be competitive. It’s a dream come true.
“With what I’ve experienced the last year and in my career, I don’t take any of this for granted. Even if this whole ‘Melon Man Challenge’ doesn’t work out, it will still be the right move and we’re going to have a lot of fun along the way.”
Sitting 35th in the standings, Chastain has just seven more races to work his way inside the top 20 in points and find his way back to victory lane to qualify for the playoffs. He’s currently 64 markers outside the top 20 and an even larger 255 points behind Harrison Burton, who sits eighth in the standings.