chevy racing–nascar–pocono–ross chastain

ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 42 CHIP GANASSI RACING CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Transcript: PER YOUR NASHVILLE POST-RACE COMMENTS, IS CONFIDENCE SOMETHING THAT IN GENERAL YOU STRUGGLE WITH?“Yeah, this is a performance-driven industry. And if you don’t perform, why are you here and how are you going to stay here? I think every race car driver does. If you have a bad finish, you don’t feel as good as if you finish up front. I don’t want it to be taken too much. I don’t feel like I have deeper issues by any means. I feel like I’m living a great life, great family, great livelihood, and getting to do what I truly love and have dreamed about my entire life, or definitely since I was 12 years old and raced a truck for the first time. But yes, after Las Vegas it was tough. I had a lot of calls. I stayed out West. That’s just how my schedule worked out and I wanted to spend a week out there between Vegas and Phoenix. I had a lot of phone calls and a lot of team calls talking through the set-up and talking through what I needed and how I could be better and how the car could be better. That was a tough week.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT TO COMPETE IN THE CUP SERIES? HOW DIFFERENT IS YOUR MINDSET BETWEEN KNOWING WHEN YOU CAN GET BETTER AND WHERE THE ORGANIZATION IS RIGHT NOW?“Oh, I think I would talk way too long if we truly got into that. It is tough to evaluate a lot of times, but we just try to be better. That’s the main thing. We haven’t changed our processes really since I got to CGR in 2018 and it obviously ramped up last Fall once we knew we were driving this car and have just stayed the course. I’m at the Chevy simulator right now. I just hopped off. It’s the same processes, even when we walk out of a place like this and feel like my brain is scrambled and we didn’t make any progress, we just come back the next week or the next day or whenever our next session is and do it again and try to be better.”
YOUR RESULTS HAVE BEEN MUCH BETTER OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS. HAS THERE BEEN A SINGLE AH-HA MOMENT WITH THE NO. 42 TEAM?“No, not in my opinion. All our pieces to win in the Cup Series are there. We just have to pick them up in the right order and put them at the right spot at the right time and have the right people doing it. We’ve just struggled a little bit to do that. It’s been building, even before the results were that great. We’re just steady on our progress and our processes of trying to be as best as we can be. It’s just been a building over time.”
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE WORKING THROUGH THIS PROCESS WITH YOUR CREW CHIEF, PHIL SURGEN?“If you throw in there our first-time Cup Series spotter with Brandon McReynolds, and we’ve got three rookies on the No. 42 team. I know a lot of people question that and we’ve had a lot of truly open conversations before the season on what to expect. And we were short of our expectations to start the year, but we didn’t change. And the results are now getting there, and we’ve put together some good weeks. Although I’ve made a lot of mistakes, we’ve had mistakes made on the team in these races where we haven’t been up there the whole race like at least this last month together to finish the race, and that’s what it’s all about. Like at Nashville I felt like we were a top-5 car all day long. But every time they were giving out Stage points, I found myself in 24th place. It’s like what am I doing here? So, it was good to put together a good last half of the race and maximize, for sure. It’s hard to pass, so to drive up there was really good. But yeah, Phil and I have been honest with each other. We don’t cheer each other up. We’re not like a big pep rally or pep talk, neither one of us. We had a conversation after Nashville about, did I want more pep talk on the radio. I was like no, I want what you’re doing. You give me the information. You give me your thoughts. You give me your opinion and I form my own opinion, and we see where the facts shake out. We’re not big motivational speech guys on the radio. I’m all about motivating off-track, but on-track, like the it’s done now. It’s just having to do our jobs.” YOU’VE HAD SUCCESS AT POCONO PREVIOUSLY IN THE XFINITY SERIES AND IN THE TRUCK SERIES. WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND IN A CUP CAR?“You’re right. We have had some incredible weekends. I truly led my first Truck Series laps there. So that was a big moment for me. To come back in 2019 and win the Truck race and then run second last year in the Xfinity Series, you’re right. We have had some good runs there. I think what’s going to help and what’s been a good feeling all this week is through our crazy NASCAR matrix for starting positions, we’re starting in the top-10. And we’ve kind of been on the wrong end of the wheel every week on starting positions. The math was always against us. I’m not good at math in general, but I knew we were always in the 20’s. So, to be in the top-10 firing off here is right next to my teammate, Kurt Busch, I think, or close, that’s going to be a big help. And then hopefully we’re in not as good of a starting position on Sunday, like 20th, is kind of my goal.”
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR ROAD AMERICA, A TRACK YOU’VE NEVER RACED ON BEFORE? IS THERE ANY STRATEGY FROM COTA YOU CAN APPLY?“Some, especially what we learned there in the rain. But our road course stuff has been incredible this year. I’ve truly been blown away at the speed and the drivability, like I can hustle the cars on the road courses and make lap times and they hang on pretty good over the longer runs. It’s been good. But I actually do have some laps there in the Xfinity Series these last few years. Truly, before the year, I had Road America as probably my best road course just on the preparation side, I thought I could help prepare the best with our Chevy simulator and like what’s real. And I thought I’d have a couple of Cup races on the road courses, and I’ll have an idea of what it should feel like. And then I’ll know that track pretty well. And then we’ve come out of the gate really strong aside from the Daytona Road Course, where we were closer to a 15th place car. The other ones we’ve been closer to a top-7 or top-5 car. Yeah, a lot of things to take from the road courses so far.”
YOU DO HAVE FIVE XFINITY SERIES STARTS AT ROAD AMERICA, AND THAT MIGHT BE THE MOST OF THE FIELD. HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT TRACK? SOME SAY IT’S THE BEST PERMANENT ROAD COURSE IN THE WORLD. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON IT?“It is for a lot of the right reasons. The elevation changes are not crazy, but they’re subtle enough to be raceable but they’re not just like dropping off. The curving is, in my opinion, proper. I have spent some time with the Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA guys and INDYCAR guys throughout the off-season and talked with Alex Palou from time to time. I got to listen to Simon Pagenaud on the radio. Hearing a guy like Simon describe a car on a road course as a proper corner and a proper apex and proper curb strike, I’m like okay. It’s starting to make a little bit more sense about what it should be like. There’s enough forgiveness, like you get off in the grass, but there is a penalty for overstepping. So, I think that’s another good thing. It’s not just asphalt with green paint or blue stripes like it’s truly, you’re going to be off in the grass and there’s a concrete wall coming up so, it is a tough place but it’s a good challenging place.”
DOES FIVE STARTS THERE GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE?“I don’t think so. These Cup guys are so good. And these simulators are so good now. I only know our Chevrolet/GM one here at Pratt & Miller, but they’re good. When you get it right they feel real. So, I take a lot from them. It’s about just as good as taking a hauler and a race car up there and making laps in real life. Plus, it doesn’t hurt as bad when you wreck.”
DOES PRACTICE HELP YOU AND DID YOU HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH CHIP GANASSI AFTER THE NASHVILLE RACE?“No, we played phone tag a little bit with Chip. I agree on the practice side. But I think all race car drivers are better with practice, like you can work on your car. Now we were good from lap 1. I actually rode out and Daniel (Suarez) and I were like passing each other in practice. I don’t know why that was happening. Neither one of us really knew why we were together on track. But I knew from my get-up-to-speed lap, my car was going to be good. And then it was just about managing the build-up of rubber and the resin and the spray throughout the weekend. The track got to a lot better spot. I ran the Truck race. I had practice Friday morning, and from there until Sunday afternoon for the Cup race, the track was proper from a rubber standpoint by Sunday. It really wasn’t ready Friday. It needed more rubber in my opinion. From Truck, practice, to race and then Cup practice to race is big and it’s big for my confidence. You go out and you’re a top-10 in practice and you’re like okay. And then you mock up and you go a little bit faster but not quite and it’s like okay, I know what I can do different. I didn’t exactly execute it Sunday morning for qualifying on Sunday morning, but I at least knew what to expect going into the race.”
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT DO YOU THINK POCONO 2 THIS WEEKEND WILL BE COMPARED TO POCONO 1? HOW MUCH WILL IT DIFFER BECAUSE OF CHANGES MADE OVERNIGHT?“I think the track will continue to take rubber. We’ll have the Xfinity race Sunday morning before our Sunday race. We’ll have some rubber on the track from the Truck guys. So that’s good. But it is two different days. If we were coming back tomorrow, what would we change? We have one night of talk through and debrief and what would we change? And then we write all that down and we incorporate it into the set-up for the next season or whenever we come back to that track again. Now it truly is. You’re coming back in the Cup Series the very next day. Unfortunately, in my experience, sometimes there’s not as big of an increase in grip or speed that you would like. The guys that are good on Saturday are probably going to be good on Sunday, plus or minus a few spots. There might be those one or two guys that might be really bad on Saturday, and they fix an issue like a mechanical issue. Nobody is going to like fall off a cliff on Sunday without a true problem. It’s going to be pretty similar. You get your balance a little closer. Unfortunately, as much as I am a race car driver and I want to practice, I am not naive to the fact that our non-practice races have been pretty good. And I don’t know that practice necessarily helps the racing product. I don’t necessarily think you’re going to expect to see a better race on Sunday. The best race might be on Saturday when we don’t really know what to expect because we haven’t been on-track here in months.
“Pocono is a place with three totally different turns and different banking and entry speeds and exit speeds and different loads on the car. So yeah, you’re going to sacrifice something to try to make the best lap times. And then you’re like oh, if I can get a little more in that back corner in my worst corner, I’ll be better. And then you hurt the other two. And you’re like oh, darn it. You have enough adjustments built into the car and that’s where my engineers and crew chief and all my guys at Chip Ganassi Racing; we have an army of people for a reason, and they build the best race car they can build. Having that adjustability built in is key to have your box big enough to truly work in.”