Oh, what a difference a year makes.
At this time last year, Ross Chastain was in his first full season on the NASCAR Cup Circuit seeking his first victory.
Now, he’s a second-year driver who’s tied for most wins this season with two, leads in top 5 finishes with 8, and he’s second in Cup points standings.
Not bad for the Alva, Florida, native, who is descended from a long line of watermelon famers.
Alva, if you’re wondering, is due east from Fort Myers.
Chastain earned his first victory at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas in March, where he led the majority of laps. After the race, he got to do his signature move for the first time on the big circuit — smashing a watermelon from the roof of his car onto the track.
People in the front row didn’t get sprayed like they would at a Gallagher show, though (anyone remember Gallagher??).
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Chastain came back just four weeks later and earned his second win in a wild finish at Talladega where he only led for the last bit of the race before the finish line.
“We led about, maybe a couple of hundred yards,” Chastain told me recently. “I didn't make any, you know, awesome, aggressive or smart maneuver… I didn't believe it when we crossed the line.”
Chastain talks about his two victories and much more as he joins “The *State* of Florida Sports Podcast,” powered by the USA TODAY Network.
Aside from his impressive season, I ask Ross about some of the issues other drivers have had with him this season. It's hard to believe fellow drivers can get angry at him given how nice he is.
Chastain also explains how Dale Earnhardt Jr. was once his landlord.
He talks about having his car changed to the No. 1.
And he tells me about what it was like meeting his new team’s co-owner, Mr. 305, Pitbull.
You can hear all that and more on the podcast.
I recently had an emailer write me to say these columns don’t give enough away. I told them to listen to the podcast so they could hear all this great information from my guests.
If I give too much away, you might not listen.
The podcast is less than 30 minutes, and you’ll find Ross to be one of the most likable people on the NASCAR circuit.
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We can be downloaded wherever you listen to podcasts, or simply type in “The *State* of Florida Sports Podcast” into your favorite search engine. We also can be found on any of the 17 USA TODAY-Network Florida websites contained within this column.
If you like it, you can check out previous shows, which feature current and former professional athletes and coaches, as well as our stable of journalists who cover beats and write columns, all of whom have a tie to the Sunshine State.
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This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: NASCAR driver Ross Chastain joins podcast to discuss successful 2022