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Ross Chastain admits “humbling” start to season

Jeff Burton, Rutledge Wood and Jac Collinsworth discuss which NASCAR Cup drivers could surprise at Talladega this weekend, preview Xfinity's return after a week off and more.

Ross Chastain isn’t sugarcoating the problems he and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team have had early on this season.

Entering Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, FOX), Chastain sits 24th in points.

Since opening the season with a seventh-place effort at the Daytona 500, he’s finished no better than 14th and suffered two DNFs. He’s also been involved in several other on-track incidents with drivers such as Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Matt DiBenedetto.

During a Friday media teleconference, Chastain took ownership for much of the issues.

“It’s been humbling, for sure,” he said. “There have been a lot of things that I’ve just done wrong behind the wheel… The small details of driving the car. We’re working down a path, with no practice, of trial-and-error at these races to see what works for me and what works for the car.

“We have to be better. We’ve been pretty honest with ourselves and pretty transparent with each other in what we see. You can throw a lot of that on me. There are a lot of things in the car that I have to keep doing better. We’ll keep working toward that.”

But despite the struggles, Chastain insists that he and his team’s goals and expectations - including winning and making the playoffs - have not changed.

“We have attainable goals and the small steps of doing the obvious things right during a race,” he said. “Our goal is to win. Our process in preparing for a race does not change. It’s only ramped up and we’re pushing harder.

”... We’re not backing down. These guys are here late and up early. We have a lot of things we want to accomplish.”

The CGR organization as a whole has been down on performance recently. Chastain’s veteran teammate, Kurt Busch, has finished no better than 13th over the last six races and currently holds the final playoff position by just 10 points going into Sunday.

However, for Chastain, Busch and other drivers who’ve started the season slow, Talladega is a big opportunity to get righted with a win or a strong result.

Both of Chastain’s top-10 finishes in Cup have come on superspeedways. Additionally, he has an Xfinity Series win at Daytona International Speedway under his belt.

In regards to NASCAR’s biggest track, Chastain follows something he says he heard years ago from a Truck Series veteran.

“We’ll probably crash - but it’s the art of getting through it with minimal damage or no damage and putting yourself in position to win at the end,” he said.

“I think what I learned at (this year’s Daytona) 500 will pay off, although it was a smaller pack most of the race after the first big crash. Talladega is a little bit wider with easier entries and exits out of the corner. It doesn’t funnel down and cause the stack-ups that can cause a lot of wrecks.

“I don’t know if anyone can feel favorable going to Talladega. It’s just Talladega. We’ll race and work with Team Chevy, Kurt Busch and see what we can come out with.”