Dale Earnhardt Jr put Ross Chastain in a house. Now, he’s NASCAR TV gold
Before Ross Chastain was ticking off drivers at the Cup level, he was ruffling feathers down in the Xfinity Series.
And before that, he was paying rent to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
yep That Dale Jr.
“Ross used to rent from me. I own some rental properties in town, so I always felt like Ross and I had this good friendship,” Junior said this week during an NBC conference call.
“He was close by in proximity as he was trying to get some traction in the sport. We raced against him in the Xfinity Series, and he ran hard and aggressive with no apology, and that was always fun to watch … unless he was running hard and aggressive with the cars that you owned.
“There would be weekends when I would be so frustrated with him, but then the very following weekend he would drive the same way but at least it wasn’t against my cars and I would love it.”
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Ross Chastain ‘one of the best things going’ for NASCAR
Junior and the NASCAR on NBC crew are set to take over the TV coverage for the rest of the season beginning Sunday in Nashville (5 pm, NBC). After a rare week off, the Cup Series returns for the first of 10 straight races to close out the regular season.
And yes, you’d be wise to keep an eye on Chastain going forward. Don’t take my word for it, though.
“Hopefully, for us as viewers going forward, he continues to put on a show,” Junior said. “He’s one of the best things going right now for the sport in terms of entertainment. He’s got a little personality to him, which is always important.
“I hope for our sake that he continues all of his ambitious moments going forward, and especially once we get into the playoffs and it really starts to count and matter.”
Denny Hamlin vows payback for Ross Chastain
For those who need a bit of a refresher, Chastain didn’t have his best showing earlier this month in St. Louis.
He got into both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott early in the race, and then spent the remaining laps fending off both drivers as they quite literally hunted him down.
Elliott drew first blood when he ran him up the track and into the wall on a restart, and then Hamlin came in for the kill, passing Chastain shortly after only to then brake-check him around the track for the next two laps.
“It was comical at times,” Junior said.
Earnhardt Jr. on Chastain apology: Not buying it
Hamlin said after the race — and the following week at Sonoma — that payback was still coming. Elliott moved on in typical Chase Elliott fashion.
Chastain, meanwhile, apologized…a lot.
A little too much, said Junior.
“I don’t know whether I buy it or not. I don’t know to be honest with you,” he said. “He laid it on pretty thick after the race. I know he understands that he’s got to clean it up a little bit, but I still think that there’s a part of him that’s like, ‘I’m not going to back down and I ‘m not dialing it back.'”
Chastain finished seventh at Sonoma while Hamlin barely sniffed the front, so the anticipated payback is still in the works.
Hamlin promised it would come when Chastain “least expects” it, and Chastain — perhaps to Junior’s dismay — accepted what was coming.
“Words aren’t going to fix it, so I’ll have to pay for it on the track,” he said.
Whether it happens this weekend in Nashville, down the road in Daytona, or a playoff race in the fall remains to be seen.
We do know one thing, though: Chastain’s former landlord will be watching.
“I hope that Ross doesn’t change,” Junior said. “I hope that he doesn’t lose that raw ambition that he has when he goes down into the corner on the inside of somebody.
“I can’t wait to see what he’s willing to try or what he’s willing to try to accomplish and do in those moments when his season is on the line, when it’s now or never and this next corner he has to make something happen.
“I think it will be compelling for sure.”