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“May the odds be ever in your favor.”
While he’s not fighting in "The Hunger Games," Ross Chastain has run a battle-tested season that would impress even Katniss Everdeen, but the ever-polarizing Florida native still has one last obstacle standing between him and eternal glory: Phoenix Raceway.
Though Chase Elliott is the clear favorite to win the 2022 Cup Series Championship with 2-1 betting odds, Chastain has skyrocketed into now having a 3-1 probability to bring home the bacon Nov. 6 at Phoenix, matching drivers Joey Logano and Christopher Bell who are also vying for the title, according to BetMGM odds cited by NASCAR.com. That said, Chastain’s outlook wasn’t always so rosy. When the season began, Chastain, who drives for relative newcomers Trackhouse Racing, co-founded by Justin Marks and Grammy Award-winning artist Pitbull, was nowhere remotely close to being within Las Vegas’ crosshairs, sitting at an abysmal 150-1 odds to win. That’s not just an underdog or a long shot – that’s a no shot. (For comparison, Elliott began the season at 5-1 to win the Cup Series Championship; Logano was 14-1; Bell was 25-1, according to NASCAR.com)
But that’s how Chastain likes it. Relatively ignored as any sort of a credible threat to dethrone 2021’s Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, the Watermelon Man’s only in his second full-time Cup Series season and has already forged a reputation as a driver who’s just as fearless behind the wheel as he is innovative. It’s that unwavering, winner-take-all mentality that propelled his epic "video game" finish at Martinsville that saw him overtake Denny Hamlin in the final few feet of the race’s final lap to secure a spot in the Championship Four. When everyone tells him it can’t be done, there’s Chastain, ready to prove everyone wrong, again and again.
While Chastain’s David vs. Goliath chip on his shoulder fuels his competitive drive, it also often puts him at odds with a his fellow NASCAR stars. Joey Logano, Hamlin, Elliott, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch – there might be more NASCAR drivers beefing with Chastain than there aren’t, but when you reach success like he has, folks aren’t going to line up to be friends.
"You need to give and take to win a championship," Busch, a two-time Cup champion, said in August. "Will [Ross Chastain] get [the] benefit of the doubt in situations when it comes to time-on-the-line, coming to the end of the playoffs and going to Phoenix? Absolutely not. No way. No chance."
In addition to his two wins this season, Chastain has recorded an additional 19 other top-10 finishes, according to NASCAR.com. Though he’s run a fast car when others have struggled to remain consistent in that arena, Chastain’s not interested in crediting it all to his car’s speed.
"It's not about the speed or our cars,” Chastain revealed to FOX Sports in September. “It's more about how many people my mistakes can ripple effect into in Trackhouse and Chevrolet."
Whether he’s enjoyed being both the longshot and public enemy number one this season, Chastain will need to embrace his role as the villain once more as he takes the wheel for the final time this season during the Cup Series Championship at Phoenix this Sunday.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And you can catch up on the series now on Peacock.
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