Ross Chastain to take Cup ride with Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 team in 2021

Ross Chastain will take over the No. 42 Chevrolet ride currently driven by Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Cup Series for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ross Chastain will drive the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series starting in 2021, the team announced Monday.

Chastain, who currently has a full-time ride in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing, will take over for Matt Kenseth, who has held the seat since May after Kyle Larson was dismissed for using a racial slur during an iRacing event.

Chastain currently is preparing for the Xfinity Series Playoffs starting Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 27-year-old driver is ranked eighth entering the playoffs and has 23 top-10 finishes in 26 races this season. He has two career Xfinity wins in 184 starts over the past seven years.

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The first of those Xfinity wins came in 2018 with Ganassi, who indicated in an interview after Kenseth’s hiring that Chastain was “still a part of this team, and I hope Ross has a future with this team.” Monday, the team owner elevated him to full-time in the Cup Series.

“Ross has been a part of this organization for a few years now, and I am happy to announce him as our driver for the No. 42 team,” Ganassi said in a release provided by the team. “In three races with our organization in 2018 and watching ever since, he showed me and everyone else that he is a tenacious driver who wants to win. We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around. Additionally, his racing background has him well-suited to make the move to the Cup Series.”

Chastain became emotional at Bristol Motor Speedway after his most recent Xfinity Series finish on Friday, when he recorded his fifth second-place result in what’s so far been a winless season. When asked post-race about a potential opportunity with Ganassi’s No. 42 team, Chastain said he’d jump at the chance.

“Are you kidding me? Of course,” Chastain said. “Everybody in this entire garage would. Yeah, who wouldn’t?”

He echoed those sentiments Monday.

“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 especially with all the great guys they have on the 42 and to be able to team with a champion like Kurt Busch. Racing in the Cup Series with a serious contender has always been my goal, and I‘m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team. 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.”

Kenseth returned to the Cup Series after the COVID-19 shutdown. The 2003 series champion, Kenseth had not driven in the Cup Series since running a partial schedule with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018.

Kenseth’s best finish this season was a runner-up effort at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, marking his only top five in his return. The 48-year-old veteran sits 25th in points after missing the first four races of the season, and the CGR No. 42 team changed crew chiefs — Phil Surgen in for Chad Johnston — ahead of the Cup Series’ doubleheader weekend at Michigan last month.

Chastain also has three wins in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, coming in 91 starts over 10 years. He has made 79 career Cup Series starts with one top-10 finish, 10th in the 2019 Daytona 500 for owner Jay Robinson.

Chastain has been among the most prolific participants in all three NASCAR national series in recent years, frequently making double-duty appearances during race weekends. He has made 43 national-series starts this year, down from 77 last season and 74 in 2018 as he has tried to concentrate more on his Xfinity efforts with the Kaulig organization.

Chastain is a 12-generation watermelon farmer from Alva, Florida. He has embraced the “Melon Man” nickname and has punctuated his NASCAR wins by smashing watermelons on the track or in Victory Lane.