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XFINITY

Chastain Closing a Chapter Saturday in the Ford Ecoboost 300

HOMESTEAD, Fla – From racing on Saturday nights at his home track in Punta Gorda, Florida to winning in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2018, Ross Chastain sure made this year memorable. Recently, it was announced that Chastain would run full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in their No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2019.

The 25-year-old hasn’t had it easy accomplishing what he did this year, but he’s proven that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams. Many competitors have different opinions about Chastain’s driving style, but that never distracted him. He continued to work hard and eventually grabbed an opportunity that led him to victory lane.

Seat time was a key figure for Chastain to learn how to become successfull, including racing with different teams in the top three levels in NASCAR.

“Yeah, it’s just a combination of everything,” Chastain told POPULAR SPEED. “Just racing as much as I can be the biggest thing I can do, and I’ll do it anytime and anywhere, I’ll race it. Getting laps helps me more than everything else.”

Although Chastain is not racing for a championship this weekend, he fulfilled goals that many do not even become close to. Beyond the XFINITY Series victory, he scored three top-fives with two different teams, and captured a pole. Prior to the 2018 season, Chastain only had one top-five finish with no pole awards to his credit.

Saturday, Chastain will make his last appearance with JD Motorsports in the Ford Ecoboost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Throughout his tenure there, he gained experience and had strong finishes that may have ultimately caught the attention of Chip Ganassi, among others.

The lessons gained extend to away from the track as Chastain has learned that racing is not the only thing in the world. As he has evolved as a driver, he has figured out that what happens at the race track stays at the track.

“Mainly it’s just, at least for me when stuff happens it’s not the end of the world,” Chastain told POPULAR SPEED. “There is going to be another race, you’re going to wake up the next day. Racing is not the end of the world and I was this way when I started as a racecar driver because we get so self-centered and so focused on our racing that one little thing goes wrong we wake up Monday morning and can’t get out of bed because we’re so passionate and sick to your stomach that you made a mistake.”

Chastain will be closing that chapter in his career, but will always look back and be thankful for the opportunities he had coming up in the ranks. As he walks out of Miami on Saturday after the Ford Ecoboost 300, he’ll go into the off-season knowing that all the challenging work he has put into his racing career is paying off.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.rivero@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Chastain to Return to JD Motorsports as Team Solidifies 2017 Lineup

With the 2017 season rapidly approaching, JD Motorsports is working on finalizing their plans for the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule.

Ross Chastain will be a part of those plans as he will return to the team for the third consecutive season. The team is also working with Garrett Smithley, who finished a solid 18th in the final championship standings this past season.

“We’re 99 percent sure Garrett will be back with us,” said team owner Johnny Davis. “But we’re still working on funding and sponsorship issues to get everything lined up.”

JD Motorsports has a vacancy in their third entry as Ryan Preece has left the team to pursue other opportunities.

Chastain finished 16th in the XFINITY Series points standings last year, with 17 top 20 finishes with a best finish of 11th coming at Daytona in July. The Florida Watermelon Association will return as a primary sponsor for Chastain next season.

“Ross is a smart kid and an intelligent driver,” Davis said. “We’re lucky to have him back with us next year. He brings a lot to the team, and he works with our guys really well. We’re looking to step up our program with him.”

Smithley competed in 32 XFINITY Series races this past season with a best finish of 12th at Talladega in May.

“We’re working hard every day on getting things ready for next year,” Davis said. “It’s a complicated process to get everything in line to compete at the highest levels of stock car racing. Hopefully, we’ll be set long before it’s time to head to Daytona Beach in February for the season opener.

“Our goal is to always have our teams and our drivers in a position to show the best marketability for everybody. We take a lot of pride in our cars and our sponsors and how we showcase the drivers and the companies that work with us.”

 EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Preece Earns Top 10 in Darlington Debut

JD Motorsports earned its first top 10 of 2016 when the No. 01 Chevrolet driven by Ryan Preece crossed the finish line 10th at Darlington Raceway on Saturday.

Preece, a XFINITY Series rookie, knows his finish at the track called “The Lady in Black” was hard-earned after qualifying 22nd and flirting with the top 15 for the first 100 laps of the 200-mile event.

A four-car accident in Turn 4 on Lap 103 brought out the final caution of the race and ensured Preece would have a decent position on the restart and a lead-lap finish.

“Track position was pretty important and that caution just happened to fall our way when the 13 [Carl Long], Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and my teammate, Ross [Chastain], ended up wrecking,” Preece told POPULAR SPEED. “That caution came out at a good time for us because it was kind of between pit cycles. We hadn’t talked about pitting yet.

“I knew after that [caution] that we were going to pit soon because tires were so important. That caution came out when we were on the lead lap. We restarted ninth and ended up staying 10th, so it all worked out. It’s a worn out racetrack, and personally, I like it.”

The South Carolina track is notorious for giving racecars the “Darlington Stripe,” which happens when a car brushes the outside wall on one of the turns. Inexperienced rookies of any NASCAR series are particularly susceptible to the “Stripe” and often become victims of the track that can be “too tough to tame.” But Preece kept his JDM machine in fine shape by the race’s end.

“[The track] goes toward the feel that you’re looking for. In [Turns] 1 and 2, there’s so much throttle time, and you’re driving off the right rear of the car. In 3 and 4, it’s a combination of right rear [drive] and overall grip,” Preece said.

Preece’s goal for the rest of 2016 is to remain a top-15 car. At the season’s start, he aimed for top-20 finishes every weekend, but as the summer has progressed and he improved, he feels confident in more opportunities at top-10 results.

He expects to be back with JDM for the 2017 XFINITY season, along with teammates Garrett Smithley and Chastain.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Preece Eager for NHMS Weekend Following Kentucky Rebound

After a blown tire and a 32nd-place finish in Iowa followed by an engine failure at Daytona, Ryan Preece appeared to be stumbling into the summer stretch. But with a 15th-place finish at Kentucky and his home track next on the schedule, the Connecticut native feels his luck is about to turn for the better.

Preece’s result in the Alsco 300 on Friday night tied his best finish of the season, which came at Talladega in April. The XFINITY Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next — a track that brings positive memories for the JD Motorsports rookie.

“It was definitely a good week to have a good run,” Preece told POPULAR SPEED. “Especially heading into a place like New Hampshire, which I consider to be my home track among the three [national] series.”

Preece has five top fives and a pole at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, amidst his career totals of 80 top 10s and 14 poles in the series. The 2013 Modified champion also made his Sprint Cup Series debut there in 2015 driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing in the No. 98 Chevrolet.

Preece called the first half of his season “a tough pill to swallow.” He and team owner Johnny Davis want the No. 01 to be a top-20 car every week, and have scored six of them in 16 races. 

“There’s been a lot of misfortune,” Preece said. “But I had a good feeling about this weekend, in terms of a really good car. We’ve been looking for a feel in the car, and I think we found it tonight.”

The 25-year-old will compete in two Modified events before the XFINITY race at New Hampshire — the Modified All-Star Shootout on Friday and the New England 100 on Saturday. He hopes the extra track time will benefit him for the AutoLotto 200, which will take place after Saturday’s Modified race.

“We’re all making good progress,” Preece said. “I’ve learned that I can’t drive a tight racecar — I need it a little free. I had a car like that tonight, and it’ll work really well there, too.”

Preece sits 18th in the XFINITY standings. He is 19 points behind his rookie teammate Garrett Smithley and 100 points outside the Chase cutoff with 10 races left until the series’ inaugural playoffs begin.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

XFINITY Series Rookie Teammates Exceeding Expectations

LONG POND, PA. — Ryan Preece and Garrett Smithley, rookies for JD Motorsports in the XFINITY Series, are racing full-time in a NASCAR national touring series for the first time in their careers, and the opportunity is, as Smithley humbly expressed, a “dream come true” for the duo.

One-third through the season, Smithley and Preece sit 17th and 18th in the points standings, respectively. Both drivers, like the rest of the XFINITY regulars, will race for the first time in the series at Pocono.

Preece had never driven on the track until Thursday’s practice session, but Smithley’s experience at Pocono includes a 14th-place finish in an ARCA Series race in 2013.

“It’s one the few tracks where I have a lot of racing experience,” Smithley told POPULAR SPEED. “I’ve raced here twice in the ARCA Series and once in the [Camping World] Truck Series.”

Smithley piloted the No. 0 for every race except for Daytona in February, but even though he’s not actually signed to a whole-year deal in the car, he’s earned it based on his weekly performance early in the season.

“As of right now, if nothing changes, I will be full-time in the No. 0 car for the rest of the year,” Smithley said. “When we started the year, Eric McClure was in the car at Daytona, but we planned on running the first three races after him to see where we are.”

Preece is signed for the full season in the No. 01 car and said the XFINITY Series has been an adjustment from running modified car events, which don’t race every week.

“The traveling has been a never-ending thing here,” Preece told POPULAR SPEED. “It’s a different atmosphere because for everyone here — this is their job, where on the modifieds, they’re volunteers.”

Both rookies rely on their teammate in the No. 4, Ross Chastain, for information and advice. Chastain raced full-time in the No. 4 for JD in 2015.

“Being in the car full-time and learning has helped me,” Preece said. “The toughest thing is trying to find the feel in the car that I’m looking for, but I feel like we’ll be like Ross, who has had a lot of speed.”

All three JD Motorsports drivers are in the top 20 in the points standings, and Smithley feels that momentum is on their side.

“We finished 12th at Talladega and finished 15th last weekend at Charlotte,” Smithley said. “We are exceeding all expectations, and hopefully, we can just build on that and continue the season.”

Chastain’s strong performance at Charlotte, where he led a lap was a testament to the second-tier organization’s strength.

“We’re one of the top-level race teams here that don’t have a Cup affiliation,” Smithley said.

Both drivers said it’s hard to relax with races occurring every weekend, but they appreciate having a shot in one of NASCAR’s top series.

“They’re a hard-working bunch of guys,” Preece said. “I feel like, as a group, we’re exceeding expectations. I’m very happy for this opportunity.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Development Journalists

JD Motorsports Stepping Up Their Game

For the first time since Daytona in July and only the second time this season, JD Motorsports had not one, but two of their three cars finish inside the top-10 with @RossChastain finishing 10th and @LandonCassill eighth, respectively, in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Both drivers started their day in the top-20 as Cassill’s Flex Seal Chevrolet rolled off 19th while Chastain’s newly sponsored South Carolina Education Lottery machine started 14th. The strong qualifying efforts carried over into the 147-lap event as Cassill and Chastain ran within close distance of the series most notable drivers. That in itself was a good day for JD Motorsports not only considering the level of the competition they were facing but the tough Darlington track as well.

But then, as the race neared its conclusion, both teams decided to try and gain even more track position by taking a gamble on fuel strategy. It paid off and turned a good day for owner Johnny Davis into a great one.

johnny-davis-in-shop-003
Car Owner, Johnny Davis

It was also a reversal of fortunes for the team a week after they played the same strategy with Chastain at Road America. That was a race in which Chastain ran as high as second. Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t work, and they lost track position and ended up involved in a late-race accident, settling for a 27th place finish.

Thankfully for the Florida native, the ‘Lady in Black’ rewarded the No. 4 team’s bold strategy. The top-10 finish is the fifth of Chastain’s career and fourth in his first full season in the XFINITY Series.

As for Cassill, his eighth place was just his second top-10 finish of the 2015 season and first since Richmond in April. Even more, it was a bit of a milestone for Cassill and JD Motorsports, whom he joined in 2013, as it was their fifth top-10 together. His eighth place finish was his best of the season.

It seemed to be just another sign of improvement the 26-year-old Cassill has shown in both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series, where he competes for another team that does more with less, Hillman Racing.

In addition to Cassill and Chastain, @HarrisonRhodes ran a third car for the team as he has done for majority of the season finishing 33rd. Despite having vibration issues that would ultimately end his day and not playing a role in the top-10 Saturday. Rhodes, much like his teammates, has also delivered for the team this season.

In his first year with JD Motorsports, he has tallied up seven top-25 finishes, including contributing to the team’s first two car top-10 effort earlier this year at Daytona with his career-best finish of ninth.

But it goes without saying that the biggest benefactor from a good day like Saturday and a good season like this year has been is entire JD Motorsports organization.

Since their inception in 2002, this year has been their most successful across the board for all three of their teams. For instance, this year alone they’ve earned seven top-10s between both teams. To put that number in perspective, the organization had just seven top-10s between the 2010 and 2014 seasons.

With just nine races left in the 2015 XFINITY season, JD Motorsports will fight to keep the momentum going with successful runs. And look to bring those positive strides to Daytona next February.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com