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Analysis: Ross Chastain smashing his way through 2022

Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Ross Chastain makes a bigger splash with every watermelon smash.

The Florida man has now won two NASCAR Cup Series races in 2022, just 10 races into the 36-race season. He claimed his first-ever checkered flag at NASCAR’s top level back in March at Circuit of The Americas and then followed up with another capture last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. That makes him one of only two multi-time winners in 2022, joining William Byron.

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While that’s impressive, what’s even more: Chastain has five podium finishes — third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, second at Phoenix Raceway, second at Atlanta Motor Speedway, first at COTA and first at ‘Dega — which puts him among some rather notable names. Take a look below at other drivers who have had at least five top-three results through 10 races.

Of those 12 instances, a Cup Series champion is involved in eight cases (highlighted) regardless of whether the title came before or after the feat. Jimmie Johnson’s 2010 and Kyle Busch’s 2019 fast starts also led to their championships.

The end is a ways away for Chastain, but for the first time in his Cup Series career, he’s guaranteed a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs by virtue of a win. Granted, it’s also only his fourth full-time season, second consecutive.

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In total, Chastain owns the two wins, nine top fives and 15 top 10s. Obviously the two wins came in 2022, but so did six of the top fives and six of the top 10s — already making this a career season. Overall, he’s averaging a 23.9 finish. This year, he’s at a 13.5 average.

Chastain, 29, is ranked ninth in the standings — 76 points off leader Chase Elliott.

Up next for the field is Dover Motor Speedway (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM). Chastain has seven starts at the 1-mile Delaware track, with his best run (15th) coming last year with Chip Ganassi Racing. All his other races there were with Premium Motorsports.

BetMGM lists Chastain at 14-1 odds to win Sunday — the fifth-best mark. Surely he has a watermelon ripe and ready.