It has seemingly come full circle for Ross Chastain. Tuesday Anheuser-Busch announced that starting in 2024, they will sponsor the Trackhouse Racing driver through its Busch Light brand.
It’s sort of a big deal. Busch Light is one of the legacy sponsors in NASCAR with a commitment to the sport that dates back to 1979. The brand became widely known in 1982 when it became the title sponsor for what is now the Xfinity Series. They left that role in 2007 with Busch returning as the “Official Beer of NASCAR” in 2018.
Busch Light replaced Budweiser as primary sponsor for Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick in 2016 and has continued that relationship. But this is Harvick’s last season as a fulltime driver, giving Anheuser-Busch the opportunity to find a new driver to represent the Busch Light brand in NASCAR.
Enter Ross Chastain.
Chastain has made his mark in a short time in the NASCAR Cup series. He has two wins in Cup after climbing through the ranks of the Truck and Xfinity series. During that rise, and even now, his sponsors have been plentiful, but seemingly nothing on the order of a legacy brand like Busch Light.
“To get asked to be the next guy is it’s everything I’ve ever wanted,” Chastain said. “It’s everything I’ve ever worked for 13 years now. And it’s all kind of came through with Trackhouse being a Cup team that believes in me and gives me race winning cars to go compete and then a sponsor.
“What I always wanted was a sponsor to obviously go with that. And I’ve realized it’s more of a partnership and as I’ve gotten to know the folks behind the brand of Busch Light, it’s really, really incredible.”
The partnership didn’t happen overnight. It actually began shortly after Harvick announced this year would be his final season.
“When Kevin Harvick decided to make the 2023 season his last, we respected and supported his decision, and are proud to be there for his final laps,” said Krystyn Stowe head of marketing for Busch Family Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “But we wanted to continue our tradition in the sport and made the decision to sponsor Ross Chastain starting in 2024.
“Ross Chastain is one of the most committed drivers in the sport that fans can’t get enough of. With his unique driving style, popularity with his fans and becoming a rising star in the NASCAR Cup Series, we are so excited to have the opportunity to work together.”
As with any sponsor, months of work: photos, paint schemes, and the like needed to be done. During all that Chastain had to keep the news close to the vest, so to speak, until Tuesday.
“It’s tough,” Chastain admitted, adding with a chuckle. “I’m impressed that we’ve kept it as close to the vest as we have. But I just know that’s, that’s what’s best for us. So, it’s not hard to not say anything. Once I talked with Justin (team owner Marks) about enough to get his blessing, I did go to like my dad and brother and mom and some family on it just to give them the good news when I could. But that’s a tight circle. It’s just family and yeah, I know that’s what’s best.
“I’ve learned in this sport if you’re going to keep anything a secret. Just don’t tell anybody.”
During his career, Chastain has had several sponsors, and he’s had to sometimes work at attracting a myriad of them to fund an entire season. Now, he’s landed a sponsor that will allow him not to worry so much about where the funding for the next race will come from. But that doesn’t mean it will change who he has become.
“I still have the same passion to wake up and go try to win,” he said. “Wake up, try to be the best race car driver I can be. And that’s what these last probably five years have shown me in my career and definitely since getting to Cup, was that I felt like we arrived and that I wasn’t going to have to go back to the farm to work.”
Chastain admits there were times when he wondered what the future might hold, who the next sponsor might be, or if he could race a car fast enough to win but said some of the best advice he’s received came during his tenure at Chip Ganassi Racing from Doug Duchardt who was the COO at the time.
“He said, ‘go be the best race car driver you can be, race everything and it’ll work out’”. And I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve never let that mentality leave. My first thought in the morning when I wake up is naturally, ‘how can I make my race car go faster?’ And that might be getting it funded, that might be running an extra mile that day, it might be studying the past race. But I’ve just kept that.
“Even knowing this and signing these contracts has not changed that, which I’m happy. I don’t want to ever get complacent…I think the day that I stop trying to go faster than I did the last lap, I’m going to probably start the countdown on the end of my driving career.”
Some of the more recent advice has come from Kevin Harvick. Chastain said that while he and Harvick have had dust ups on the track, the retiring driver and 2014 NASCAR Cup champion has been someone who’s always given him good advice.
“He helps guys and I’m not the only one by far,” Chastain said. “We’ve talked about other stuff, but definitely about this. I asked him for advice, and he gave it to me on how he thought I could handle, you know, certain situations.
“It’s really, really helpful whenever you have somebody like that that’s been in my exact spot that I’m going to be in.”
Having the knowledge for the last few months that it would be him instead of Harvick driving the Busch Light car on the track next season has made for some surreal moments on track this season while racing Harvick. Especially given that Chastain knows he will be carrying on a legacy of sorts representing a brand that Harvick has carried for years.
“It absolutely is,” he said. “He is just a legend, you know, be in the Hall of fame first ballot right away, no doubt.
“Just what he’s done and how he got to where he is at and the way he has carried himself through some really tough times make him who he is. Yeah, we’ll be the Busch Light guy and we’re going to be in places that Kevin’s been for, I think 13 years maybe, something like that. I want to be in it for 13 more, so yeah it is surreal.”
Just as important for Chastain is the relationship he’s built with the group behind the sponsor.
“Getting to know the people behind the brand,” he said. “It’s even cooler to see them and watch how they run their program and learn.”
After months of preparation, and keeping the news quiet, soon it will be Ross Chastain carrying the sponsorship of one of the most iconic brands in NASCAR. With lessons learned in his career, and from Kevin Harvick, he’s ready to represent the brand racing for years to come.
“Because next year that’s going to be us, it’s going to be Trackhouse, and I’m excited to get in there and get rolling with them,” he said. “But just watching professionals like Kevin and his group it’s taught me a lot.”