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Ross Chastain had one of the biggest breakthrough seasons of any NASCAR Cup Series driver in recent memory in 2022. His task now will be to prevent that from being a one-hit-wonder type of season.

Chastain joined Trackhouse Racing when the organization bought out his previous employer Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2021 season, and Chastain’s career turned around almost immediately.

Ross Chastain spent several years working his way through NASCAR’s developmental ranks

The 30-year-old driver from Florida had previously spent three full-time seasons in the Cup Series, although his first two in 2018-19 were with the low-budget operation of Premium Motorsports and resulted in just a single top-10 finish, a 10th-place result in the 2019 Daytona 500.

Chastain had some success in the lower two NASCAR national series during those years. He won an Xfinity Series race in both 2018 and 2019 to go with three Craftsman Truck Series wins in 2019.

He spent 2020 back in the Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing but went winless. He still got another Cup Series opportunity the following year with CGR, however, in the No. 42 that Kyle Larson had left open after NASCAR suspended him for most of the 2020 season after he used a racial slur during a streamed online race.

Chastain set modest career highs in 2021 with his first three top-five finishes and eight top-10s to place him 20th in the final points standings. Trackhouse then took over, and Chastain’s career trajectory skyrocketed.

Driving the new Next Gen car model NASCAR introduced for the 2022 season with hopes of increased parity, Chastain finished third or better in four straight races in March, culminating in his first career Cup Series victory in March at the Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain was suddenly fifth in the points standings through six races. He then won at Talladega Superspeedway four weeks later to essentially clinch his first berth in the NASCAR Playoffs.

Chastain navigated several controversies through much of the season

Ross Chastain during qualifying for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Ross Chastain looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

However, he did manage to upset a sizable group of his competitors on the way to his first postseason appearance, including Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Austin Dillon.

Chastain managed to avoid any meaningful payback for the balance of the season, aside from a late-race wreck on a restart in July at Pocono Raceway when Hamlin ran Chastain up into the outside wall coming out of Turn 1. Still, that race did not have tremendous playoff implications for either driver.

Chastain entered the playoffs as the third seed and somewhat quietly worked his way through each round until he had to push the issue in the final race of the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway.

Chastain was running 10th and was two points behind Hamlin, ironically, for the fourth and final spot in the Championship 4 when the field took the white flag at Martinsville. He then set his car against the outside wall heading into Turn 3, mashed the accelerator, and rode the wall all the way to the finish line. The historic move gained him five spots and got him into the Championship 4.

He finished third in the championship race a week later at Phoenix Raceway, which made him the runner-up to champion Joey Logano for the 2022 Cup Series title.

It was a thrilling breakout season for one of the most aggressive drivers in the sport, but maintaining a spot at the front of the field has been a challenge for several other drivers who had similar seasons in the past.

Several drivers have had single championship-caliber seasons but were unable to sustain that success

Greg Biffle finished second in the 2005 championship standings with six wins in just his third full-time season. He also finished third in 2008 but never again won more than two races in a season.

Kasey Kahne won a career-high six races in 2006 en route to an eighth-place points finish, and he reached fourth place with a pair of wins in 2012 in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports. Otherwise, he never finished a season better than 10th.

Clint Bowyer finished third in the 2007 standings, was fifth in 2008, and peaked at second with three wins in 2012. However, he spent the vast majority of his career ninth through 19th in the standings as a fringe playoff contender.

More recently, Aric Almirola popped up with a fifth-place points finish in 2018, but he has not finished higher than 14th in any of his other 11 full-time seasons.

Chastain has accomplished the first part of becoming a headliner in the Cup Series. He will now have to duplicate it to avoid the fate of several other drivers who appeared to be on their way to becoming perennial title contenders but were ultimately very good drivers who only occasionally had a legitimate chance at a championship.