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Florida driver Ross Chastain gets NASCAR Cup Ganassi Racing ride in 2021

Godwin Kelly
Washington County News

Ross Chastain, the fastest watermelon farmer in Florida, has signed a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing to race the No. 42 Chevrolet next season, replacing Matt Kenseth.

Chastain, who hails from the Southwest Florida town of Alva, has been in the Ganassi system since 2018 when he inked a driver development deal.

“I can’t thank Chip enough for this opportunity,” Chastain said. “The faith he and the organization showed me back in 2018 was a real turning point in my career, and I am extremely happy for the chance to join the team again.”

DAYTONA RIDE:Chastain gets 500 ride with Ganassi

Known as the “Melon Man,” Chastain’s signature move is smashing watermelons in Victory Lane. His family has farmed watermelons for several generations.

The 27-year-old racer drives for the Kaulig Racing NASCAR Xfinity Series team and secured a playoff position at last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Chastain first competed for Ganassi in 2018, behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet in the NXS. In the three races Chastain ran for the team that year, he earned the pole award at Darlington, a win at Las Vegas, and a runner-up finish at Richmond.

When AdventHealth announced it would sponsor Ross Chastain in the 2020 Daytona 500, he celebrated by smashing a few watermelons in Daytona Victory Lane.

“We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around,” Ganassi said.

Chastain was set to compete as a full-time Xfinity driver for Ganassi in 2019, but the proposed sponsorship deal collapsed when company DC Solar was raided by FBI agents then filed for bankruptcy.

FILLING IN:Chastain fills in for injured Newman

Without that funding, Ganassi was forced to withdraw that Xfinity team from competition.

The No. 42 Cup Series team began this season in turmoil when Kyle Larson was dismissed by Ganassi for making a racial slur during a virtual racing session.

Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion, was brought in because of his extensive racing experience.

Chastain began his racing career at the age of 12 at Punta Gorda Speedway. During his short-track racing career he scored over 50 wins in feature events, including the 2011 World Series of Asphalt Racing at New Smyrna Speedway, winning three of eight events in the series.

Chastain said he is eager to start the 2021 Cup season.

“I’m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team,” Chastain said. “I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to get to work and help bring more success to the organization.”