SWFL’s Chastain races to top-10 finish in Daytona 500

It’s a trip across the state to Daytona International Speedway, but it’s a long way from watermelon farming for one local driver. A Riverdale High School graduate competed in one of NASCAR’s biggest annual events.

Ross Chastain of Alva realized a dream Sunday when he finished 10th place in the Daytona 500.

“It’s what we work for, and I never thought I’d get here, so it doesn’t seem real now that we’re standing here,” Chastain said on the Daytona International Speedway. “It took a long time to get here in my mind, but we made it, and now we’re doing it.”

Photo by WINK News.

For most auto racing fans, the 61st running of the Daytona 500 will be remembered for all the wrecks and cautions or for Denny Hamlin’s second Daytona 500 victory.

However, for a select few, they will remember this year’s great American race as the first appearance for Alva native Chastain.

Chastain has raced the track before as part of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and truck series, Sunday’s main event for stock car racing was the first for the watermelon farmer from Southwest Florida.

“There’s much hype here in the garage and everywhere I went for appearances and stuff,” Chastain said. “It was unlike anything I’d ever felt, so I actually didn’t get any lunch. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t even get to eat.”

Thanks to being one of the few people on the track who survived all the accidents, the first run in the 500 for Chastain resulted in him finishing in the top 10.

“That’s how this thing operates,” Chastain said. “That’s why I’m in the car. They believe in me, and they believe that we can pull through it together.”

Reporter:Melinda Lee
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