FORT WORTH, Texas – Over the years, Ross Chastain has become notorious for his assertive driving style in every series he’s competed in.
From being turned by a Cup Series champion at Darlington a few years ago to a pit-road brawl at Kansas Speedway in the spring, it’s safe to say the Alva, Florida native has ruffled the feathers of drivers aplenty in his career.
However, as the 2023 Cup season heads down the home stretch, there’s been a direct distinction in how Chastain raced in the first half of the season versus now.
Whether there’s a correlation to the post-Darlington incident with Kyle Larson and being called out by the Hendrick Motorsports head honcho following, Chastain has settled into his fresh on-track persona as he navigates through the postseason.
“Probably the main thing there is actually to not attack. We don’t have to win,” Chastain said. “It’s OK to just be OK but we want to though. Like if the opportunity is there, we want to go win but we’re not going to try to take it and attack.”
Going on the offensive cost Chastain quality finishes earlier in the season at tracks like Talladega and Darlington that led to results outside the top 20, and his 24th-place run at Phoenix was the outcome of run-ins with Denny Hamlin in 2022.
While the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet hasn’t garnered consistent race-contending speed to get a comfortable distance away from the elimination line after three playoff races, Chastain has finished all races since the first Darlington event outside of the summer Atlanta race and has finished on the lead lap in all but two (Richmond-2, Bristol Night Race).
After grinding through the Round of 16 and advancing by 22 points, don’t expect Chastain to up the ante if he finds himself in undesirable positions as the postseason continues.
“I tend to get in trouble when I do that so just scrap up as many points as we can all three races,” he said. “I value all three equally just like I value the other seven in these playoffs.”
During races now, Chastain said he can pick apart how his car is feeling in specific instances and will hold back more than he used to if he means he gets to maximize his day in terms of points.
“A lot of small moments in the car of just kind of bringing it back to what does the next lap require of me,” Chastain said. “It’s really easy to realize you’re in 18th and it’s Lap 100, and you need to get up there and get in the top 10, top five but it’s just not going to happen quickly.
“So just what can I do every lap and this track really rewards patience even though it’s really fast. Just bringing it back to what does the next corner require and if it requires driving as hard as I can, I will. If it actually requires driving easier than I’m capable of, I’ll do that.”
Chastain got his Round of 12 off to a great start in Saturday’s on-track sessions at Texas Motor Speedway with a top-10 practice speed followed by a fifth-place run in qualifying to put himself at the front of the field when the green flag drops for Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).