NASCAR’s Chastain has fruitful partnership with Delaware Office of Highway Safety

Driver promotes 'Protect Your Melon'


DOVER — NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain has been growing his roots in Delaware since 2018, as part of an Office of Highway Safety campaign.

Mr. Chastain, otherwise known as the “Melon Man,” began the “Protect Your Melon” effort with the agency to inform motorists about driving under the influence and to ensure safe road trips.

On Thursday, he promoted the initiative, taking time from preparing for Sunday’s Würth 400 to greet fans and sign autographs at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover.

“It was just a way to figure out how to leave these racetracks and the cities around them a little better than how we found them,” he said Friday.

“The Delaware Office of Highway Safety came to us naturally in a way (because) people have the idea that, because I drive so fast and crash on the racetrack, that I probably do the same thing on the highways.

“We are doing this for a greater cause than just the competition for my team, my fans and me. The thought that we help somebody coming to the track (to) make the simple decision (that,) if they have had a drink or something that could impair their driving, that they are not going to drive and (to) find another way home.

This partnership developed early in his career, before he became one of the most well-known drivers. It has continued to grow, and he said he is grateful to have sponsors that want to continue working with him.

“This sponsorship meant a lot to us,” Mr. Chastain said. “It was a very large percentage of what we did throughout the year, the effort we put in to run good at Dover, and (trying) to amplify the message was a large part of what we did.”

As his popularity has bloomed, he said he’s proud to have maintained a collaboration that has proven successful.

“It’s a really unique thing that a partner like that and a campaign we’ve had for so many years can stand the test of time and keep ... going,” he added.

Speaking of tests of time, his racing career began when he was just 12.

“My dad was a hobby racer. He got into it by chance before I was born,” he said. “In 2005, he got me into it and asked if I wanted to try it.”

The younger Chastain has been racing ever since, with the goal of becoming a NASCAR driver always in mind. Once he did, he didn't look back, as “one race has turned into 500 races.”

The circuit was also a way for his family to become closer. They began by traveling all around his home state of Florida.

Mr. Chastain’s grandparents even bought a camper to join in, he said, adding, “It is something that truly molded our family and brought us closer together."

Meanwhile, the “Protect Your Melon” program not only promotes safe driving, but it also reflects his roots: His family is now in its eighth generation of farming watermelons.

And, before the NASCAR dream became a reality, Mr. Chastain thought he would be part of that fruit legacy.

“It’s been everything,” he said. “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a watermelon farmer, like my dad, my granddaddy, my great-granddad and everyone before them.”

He added that growing up in agriculture has given him a foundation that pushes him to success. Plus, he hopes to use his platform to promote his background and the farming industry as a whole.

“It’s something that molded me as a kid, and as I began racing, that is what was on the car, to promote watermelons and agriculture,” Mr. Chastain said. “If I can promote agriculture in a positive light — watermelons specifically — that’s everything I want to do.”

Back when he visited Delaware for the first time in 2016, he noticed the large number of watermelon farmers. Over time, he has enjoyed meeting others who share his passion for harvesting the fruit.

“I’ve been up here (in Delaware) enough that I have met so many people,” Mr. Chastain said. “There is a lot of good agriculture farmland, so I have great friends that farm a lot of different things.”

He also enjoys the thrill that Dover International Speedway brings each time he races there.

“I love racing at Dover, ... on the track that Melvin Joseph built,” he said. “It’s one of (the best), the speed you get and the sensation driving from the straightaway down into the corners. It’s a lot.”

Friday at Georgetown Speedway

Friday, Mr. Chastain’s partnership with the OHS brought him to Georgetown Speedway, where he signed autographs, posed for photos with fans and later competed in the Melvin Joseph Memorial Lucas Oil Late Model event.

Between 2019 and 2023, DUI accounted for 5,504 crashes in Delaware, according to the OHS.

“That’s what this is all about. When there is a decision, if you’ve had a drink, you’re on prescription medicine or something, make sure you read the label, and make those smart choices if you are going drink alcohol,” said Mr. Chastain. “We can’t have as many crashes as we’ve had. We’ve had over 5,000 crashes in the last few years in Delaware and we’ve lost too many lives. It has real consequences, and we want to try to save lives.”

Of course, in the race car and on the track, speed is the name of the game and drivers tailgate at 170-plus mph.

“On the track, it’s different. It’s racing. We’ve got fireproof suits and all the safety gear,” Mr. Chastain said. “On the highway I am just like everybody else. I’m buckled in with two belts, and the best thing I can do is wear my seatbelt and not drive distracted or impaired.”

“I think the attention to Ross has definitely expanded over the years. He is becoming a lot more popular in Delaware,” said OHS Community Relations Officer Meghan Niddrie. “I think he has a great platform to use, to be able to get the message out. People care about what he has to say, and they’ll take his advice. He seems to care a lot about the whole drive sober campaign and everything. And agriculture is big here in Delaware, too, so there is that connection.”

Their message is simple: Use your melon and drive sober.

“Make sure that if you plan on drinking, you’re going to have a sober ride home, get a ride from a friend, stay where you are, or make sure you use a rideshare service,” said Ms. Niddrie. “We are here encouraging people to make better choices out there on the road when they are driving.”

Staff writer Glenn Rolfe can be reached at Follow @glennrolfeBTBN on X.

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