NASCAR driver Ross Chastain HopeKids

NASCAR driver Ross Chastain prepares to smash watermelons with children from HopeKids.

Many children dream of becoming a racecar driver and a few Valley kids recently got an upfront look at what it’s like. 

Members of HopeKids, an organization providing exciting events for children coping with life-threatening illnesses, gathered at ISM Raceway in Avondale for rides with Ross Chastain, a NASCAR driver.

Chastain competes in three national series: Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series. So far in 2019, he’s raced 67 times. He’ll be back to ISM to race in the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR Semi-Final Race Weekend Nov. 8-10.

He met and spoke with kids on the ISM Raceway track with lunch provided by Rudy’s. 

“They told me there was a speed limit, but I don’t know about that,” Chastain said. 

“Are there going to be cops here?” said Austin Dorcey, a 17-year-old with HopeKids. 

Chastain joined kids and parents on a tour of a newly renovated suite above the track, where he explained his approach to driving at the ISM track. 

“Every track is different with its own challenges,” he said. “This one stands out. The finish line is in the corner. I always remember this track as the one with the cactus at the finish line.”

Chastain told kids he began racing at age 12. When he wasn’t racing, he worked on his family’s watermelon farm. 

“Racing kept me out of trouble,” he said. “I was consumed with it.” 

Every kid rode in a pace car three times around the track. Some were a little timid at first and others were raring to go, like 4-year-old Cole Boss. He hopped in and was ready to jet around the track. His mom, Judie Boss, took photos and smiled as he took off. She said she loves bringing him to HopeKids events.

“There are so many things they can’t do,” she said. “At HopeKids events, they really accommodate us and make it easy.”

Jadie Almonte brought her kids to the HopeKids event as well and said it’s a great opportunity to connect with other families going through similar experiences.  

After their pace car rides, the kids were invited to make a watermelon pizza with a chef. The new snack will be available at the 500 NASCAR Semi-Final Race Weekend in November. 

As a final goodbye, the kids joined Chastain at the finish line where a line of watermelons awaited them. 

“Do you know what I like to do when I finish a race? I smash a watermelon on the finish line!” Chastain said. As an eighth-generation watermelon farmer, it only seemed fitting. 

On the count of three, Chastain and the kids lifted their watermelons and smashed them on the track. 

HopeKids is a national nonprofit that provides ongoing events, activities and a powerful, unique support community for families who have a child with cancer or some other life-threatening medical condition. The Arizona chapter is based in Scottsdale and serves families throughout the state with many events all year.