With the NASCAR Cup Series not planning to race on dirt in 2024, at least at Bristol Motor Speedway, it would seem as though the drivers in that series might be looking to shy away from racing on clay surfaces being that they may not need as much practice going forward in their primary rides. However, that is not the case for Trackhouse Racing star Ross Chastain.
After making a couple of starts in a Dirt Late Model at Georgetown(DE) Speedway and Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC along with a Big Block Modified effort a New York’s Utica-Rome Speedway, the native of Alma-Florida is hoping for more opportunities to kick up some dust.
Chastain’s dirt racing ventures have come with the aid of Niece Motorsports, the team for which he has driven on the NASCAR Truck Series. That team, which has enlisted the help of Cody Sommer, plans to expand its Late Model program to run as many as 20-30 races in 2024 with a trio of drivers as Chastain is likely to be joined by fellow NASCAR pilot Carson Hocevar and Big Block Modified ace Matt Sheppard.
The Niece team experienced ups and downs recently at Eldora Speedway during the World 100 weekend with Sheppard driving. A significant “down” came when the car fell off the lift gate while being unloaded.
However, on the “up” side Sheppard did qualify for both Thursday night and Friday night semi-features finishing 19th on Thursday and 21st on Friday. A heat race mishap after starting from the pole doomed the team’s chances when trying to make the field for the prestigious World 100. \
The winner of this year’s Cup race at Nashville who comes from a family that has for many years produced watermelons struggled in lesser rides during the early portion of his career has reached the point of being highly competitive. Chastain has won races in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. In 2022, following one of racing’s most talked about moments when he rode the wall on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway, he earned at spot in the Championship 4 finishing second in the final rundown only to NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.
Chastain’s hopes are still alive in this year’s version of the NASCAR Playoffs but he currently sits below the cutline as the series heads toward a cutoff race this weekend on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
On the topic of dirt racing, Chastain has gone on the record saying that he has very much enjoyed his experiences on that type of surface and that he loves the atmosphere around dirt tracks. His Cup Series results on the dirt covered Bristol Motor Speedway were not particularly good but he did record a 12th-place finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race held at Eldora in 2019.
During a recent appearance in the Bristol Motor Speedway Media Center, Chastain was asked by InsideDirtRacing.com if he planned to do more dirt racing even with the Cup Series seemingly moving away from clay. As he pointed out, just because no dirt race is on the 2024 schedule doesn’t mean it won’t return at some point in the future.
“Absolutely,” Chastain replied. “This is a very cyclical sport and there’s liable to be another dirt race somewhere else in the future. And, I just love dirt racing and I love the people around it.”
The entry of Niece Motorsports into Dirt Late Model competition could prove to be an interesting development going forward. The busy schedules of NASCAR drivers could prove to be a challenge in terms of securing race dates. But as we have seen with the likes of Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and others, the presence of NASCAR drivers does help promoters of dirt tracks sell tickets.
Please consider also reading:
Also, dirt racing fans can check out InsideDirtRacing.com for more racing content.