Trackhouse teammates Chastain and Suarez taking differing mindsets into playoffs


 Ross Chastain has preached all year he wasn’t going to change or flip a switch when the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs began. Despite being in championship contention for the first time, Chastain has treated each week as business as usual.

This week, however, Chastain finally realized this business is slightly different. Particularly when seeing his name on the board for media day and being asked about the title fight as he sat at Thursday’s event just yards away from the Bill France Cup.

“It’s pretty wild,” Chastain said. “This week has felt almost awkwardly normal and I didn’t expect that. Sitting here, yes, this is different. Even go back one calendar year, and the guys that I trained with were all here, and I was the only one in the group not. That was humbling.

“I was out training and probably pushed myself too hard that day, but it was motivating. Not that pedaling the bike harder that day was going to make me get here. But it’s pretty wild to be here. I worked to get here, but I just never thought I would get here, honestly.”

Chastain should be considered a favorite for a deep playoff run, but he comes with baggage. The numerous run-ins Chastain had during the regular season might seem settled, but drivers have long memories. Some of the chatter the last few weeks has been whether those enemies have been waiting before striking back.

Chastain hears that chatter. But off the track, Chastain feels he’s done a good job tuning it out.

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