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Please, someone hand the Watermelon Man a mallet because now that he’s slinging jokes to go along with his impressive two wins during the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series, Hollywood’s found its star for a Gallagher reboot.
As entertaining as it would be to watch a suspenders-clad Ross Chastain smash his latest crop of juicy melons, Chastain’s place is clearly on the track. Despite not having a Cup Series win under his belt heading into this season, Trackhouse Racing's No. 1 driver has notched two wins in 2022, first at the Circuit of the Americas in March and his second less than a month later at Talladega.
That initial success helped him and Trackhouse punch their playoff ticket early on, but that was only the beginning of the Florida native’s quest for NASCAR dominance this season. Even a rough 30th-place finish at Darlington and a disastrous 37th-place finish at Charlotte’s Roval couldn’t slow the determined driver down as he followed up those disappointing races with two back-to-back top-10 finishes, placing second in both the South Point 400 at Las Vegas and the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami. After this past weekend’s race, he commented on riding his wave of momentum into the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville this Sunday.
“What it’s supposed to feel like?” Chastain pondered in an interview with NBC Sports. “I’ve never been here. For TrackHouse, we’re learning all this together; we’re experiencing this together.”
“We’ve got a lot of knowledge in our shop, and I’ll lean on a lot of teammates, both in the GM camp and inside our shop of how to approach it,” he added. “But I’m a racer. We’re just going to race.”
Besides wishing to fulfill the ambitions of his uber-competitive nature, the ever-confident wheelman piloting the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Trackhouse revealed his comical ulterior motive for wanting to take home the checkered flag at Martinsville this weekend.
“And I’m late all the time, so a grandfather clock might do me a little good for the rest of my life,” Chastain joked, referring to the time-honored tradition at Martinsville of awarding the winner with an exquisitely crafted grandfather clock.
While a simple wristwatch might help, the unique timepieces doled out to the winners at Martinsville over the years are some of the most coveted prizes of any NASCAR track. In lieu of lobsters or gladiator swords, Martinsville’s tradition dates back nearly 60 years to when the first clock was given in 1964, helping the track – the only remaining course from the Cup Series’ debut schedule in 1949 – stand the test of time. According to Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell, his grandfather H. Clay Earles chose to award the winner a grandfather clock because Earles “figured if you give something to the driver that their wives would like, then it’s going to be in a prominent place in their home.”
With Joey Logano staking his claim as currently the only driver to lock in a spot of the Championship Four, Ross Chastain will enter Martinsville 19 points above the cutline, followed by 2020 Cup Series champ Chase Elliott and then William Byron. Barring any catastrophic incidents, Chastain’s poised for a solid race as he finished in fifth place the last time around Martinsville’s paper clip-shaped track.
Priced as just under $2,600, we’re all for Chastain getting his rightfully deserved grandfather clock at Martinsville just as long as Stranger Things’ Vecna has nothing to with it. That’s one competitor the Watermelon Man would have a tough time against, even with Gallagher’s mallet.
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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