Why Ross Chastain smashes watermelons after NASCAR race wins


A watermelon sits in Trackhouse Racing Team’s No. 1 Chevrolet hauler at Martinsville Speedway. The melon travels in a crate made for transporting it to NASCAR events for driver Ross Chastain to smash when he wins.

Ross Chastain is a two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner whose latest victory came at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, when he scooted to a last-lap pass of dueling leaders Erik Jones and Kyle Larson coming to the line.

Just as iconic as his race-winning finishes are his post-race celebrations. Chastain, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida, climbs atop his No. 1 Chevrolet and heaves a ripe melon onto the ground, pumping up the crowd as it’s smashed to bits.

He said that the latest demolished fruit was purchased right after his first Cup win at Circuit of the Americas last month. The timing — or maybe just the emotion — meant that to Chastain it tasted “never sweeter,” he said.

“Not to get too long-winded, but back to our family’s history, (watermelons) put food on our table for generations,” Chastain told reporters Sunday. “To get to do that in front of — let alone this crowd — but national, worldwide attention, is just all I have ever wanted to do as a race car driver, is help promote watermelons.”

Ross Chastain, top, celebrates by slamming a watermelon to the ground after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Skip Williams) Skip Williams AP

The melons are meaningful to Chastain, and they’ve produced unforeseen hype among NASCAR fans and followers, but many questions remain about the logistics of getting the watermelons race-ready.

I first learned this after a question was sent to me by a friend, racing mechanic Bozi Tatarevic, as I was leaving Trackhouse Racing’s shop in Concord last month for a (slightly more serious) reporting assignment. Interviews had concluded by then, but I vowed to get to the bottom of the case: “Where does the watermelon live on race weekends?”

We needed an answer. At my next race at Martinsville Speedway, I approached the team’s hauler and Trackhouse Racing’s senior director of media relations, Drew Brown, who was sitting outside the door.

“Weird question, but where do you guys keep the watermelon?” I asked.

Brown said it was just inside the hauler, and even offered to show it to me, explaining that it had its own special case. We stepped inside, and sure enough, there was the melon, looking comfortable lounging in a specially designed padded carrying container that keeps it from bonking around when traveling between tracks. (Because naturally, you wouldn’t want the melon to be prematurely smashed.)

I tweeted a picture of said melon, to which many more questions came pouring in: “What happens to a non-winning watermelon?” “What about at Talladega, where the haulers are stationed farther from the start-finish line?”

This was evidently an important, or at least hilarious, topic. After Chastain’s latest win Sunday, I asked Trackhouse Racing about all the logistics of watermelons at a NASCAR race. Below are the responses from Chastain’s co-business manager Phillip Smalley.

Q: Who purchases the watermelon? Does Trackhouse pay for it or does Ross pay for it?

A: Roy Miller, lead truck driver for the No. 1 Chevrolet team hauler (purchases the watermelon). Trackhouse pays for it.

Q: Is Ross picky about where they come from?

A: Not when it comes to the one we smash, just because we know what it’s used for. (Note: Chastain has previously said that it’s completely acceptable for the watermelons to come from a grocery store, and he used to pick up his own on the way to the track when racing in the lower-level series.)

Q: What happens to a non-winning watermelon that doesn’t have the honor of getting smashed?

A: After four or five weeks, it unfortunately usually gets thrown out.

Q: Where is the watermelon typically kept on race weekends?

A: In the hauler. It has its own crate that Roy the truck driver built.

Q: The haulers are farther from the track at Talladega, so where did the melon stay on Sunday?

A: Same spot. Roy had to run all the way from the 1 hauler. (Chastain mentioned Miller after the race, saying, “Roy brought it out. Mr. Roy gets it every week for us. It’s a long way down there for him. I like to remind him, at his age that’s no small feat.”)

Q: How old is Roy?

A: He’s gotta be in his 60s.

A: Any watermelon sponsorships to look forward to?

A: He ran the Florida watermelon truck at Atlanta. He’s got some stuff coming up this year.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC beat reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 following an internship at The Washington Post. She is a two-time APSE award winner for her NASCAR beat coverage and National Motorsports Press Association award winner. She is the host of McClatchy’s podcast “Payback” about women’s soccer.
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