Editor‘s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
See more: Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suárez, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell
Driver: Ross Chastain
Car: No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Crew chief: Phil Surgen
Final 2022 ranking: 2nd
Key stats: 2 wins, 15 top fives, 21 top 10s, 692 laps led
How 2022 ended: Two words best describe not just the way the season ended for Chastain but also the entire season as a whole: outstanding and surprising. Few people likely expected the Florida watermelon farmer not only to earn his first two career Cup wins but also to reach the Championship 4 season finale and finish a close runner-up to champion Joey Logano. While his two wins were notable, how Chastain performed in the two final rounds of the NASCAR Playoffs really told the story, finishing second at Las Vegas and Homestead, fourth at Martinsville in the Round of 8 and third in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix.
Best race: Chastain‘s first career win at Austin‘s Circuit of The Americas was outstanding, leading nearly half (31) of the event‘s 69 laps. But he also had several other noteworthy showings, including his last-lap win at Talladega, second-and third-place finishes at Las Vegas and 153 laps led at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 (albeit with a disappointing 15th-place finish).
Other season highlights: Chastain had long been considered a strong talent who just needed the right team and equipment to see that talent brought to the fore, and that all came together in his first season with Trackhouse Racing in 2022. While his wins at Austin and Talladega proved to be the linchpins to get him into the NASCAR Cup Playoffs, finishing second in the Cup championship — and almost stealing the title away from eventual champ Logano — proved just how talented of a driver Chastain is. Don‘t expect how he finished in 2022 as a one-time-only accomplishment. He‘s just getting started and is likely only going to get better and better.
Stat to know: Chastain blossomed in 2022, establishing himself as one of the most aggressive drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series. Perhaps the best illustration of that was in the laps-led category. Until 2022, the most laps Chastain had led in any single season was 62 in 2021. But in 2022, he exploded, leading 692 laps for the fourth-highest among all Cup drivers.
Quotable: “I need to continue to evolve and be a better race car driver, study these guys and study myself, see what they‘re doing, understand these cars better and understand the craft that it takes to drive at this level and extrapolate the most out of these cars. I feel like I‘m on a never-ending hamster wheel to be the best version of myself, and that‘s not going to stop. I hope I never lose that drive because I wake up and I think about how can I drive a race car fast. That is my main priority every day of my life now and probably has been for the last seven or eight years.”
Looking ahead: Given how close he came to winning the championship in 2022, Chastain immediately joins several other drivers as among the top preseason favorites for the 2023 Cup championship, including defending champion Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe and Chase Elliott. Two things Chastain must improve upon, though: Cut down on the number of controversial incidents he‘s involved in (which was one of the biggest downers for him in 2022, though he’d clearly improved in this area by season’s end), and be a bit wiser in strategy. If he looks like the best finish he‘ll have is fifth, don‘t overly push it to try and finish two or three spots higher if that pushes his chances of a good finish into jeopardy.