NASCAR fans know Ross Chastain’s famous one-of-a-kind victory celebration – smashing a watermelon onto the track in a nod and homage of his family’s multi-generational farming business in Florida.
That “watermelon drop” has created buzz and stoked anticipation ever since Chastain started winning in NASCAR’s national level – simultaneously helping to make the Trackhouse Racing star’s “Melon Man” logo. … a big hit. A natural.
But incorporating his family farming business into his identifying logo in NASCAR’s big leagues involved a lot more planning and consideration than you might imagine, and it actually started years before Chastain would become the NASCAR championship player and household name he is now.
“It was a bit of an evolution,’’ Chastain said.
As a young aspiring 21-year old racer back in 2014, Chastain realized if he was going to make it in the higher echelons of NASCAR racing, he needed a logo, a brand. He needed instant identification. The first itineration was simple, a logo incorporating his initials: RC.
But, Chastain concedes the “RC” was a little too underwhelming and as he began getting more opportunities moving up the ranks, he decided to update his logo. Entering the 2018 season, he still hadn’t earned his first national series win, but Chastain did formalize a new brand, “Melon Man” and the timing couldn’t have been better as his career and celebrity was about to take off.
This time as Chastain and members of his Spire Sports and Entertainment management company sat down to update his logo and brand, they settled on the name “Melon Man” rather quickly, but the artwork and logo design took a little longer. Chastain along with Spire’s David Erickson, T.J. Puchyr, Jeff Dickerson and Kevin Wilson spent hours brainstorming and held multiple meetings to get “Manny” the Melon Man just right.
“I had seen this picture a guy had posted on social media one time where he was holding a watermelon with a baseball cap,’’ Chastain said. “I was like, ‘hmmm.’ So we started drawing it, cartoon-like and we then put a face on it, eyes, mouth and then a hat like I would wear.
“And then the hard part was actually trying to figure out how to get my idea of the perfect cartoon watermelon on the screen because I can critique a watermelon until I die,’’ Chastain recalls with a laugh.
Ultimately, he and Wilson met again to formalize Manny’s creation.
“The rest of them were like, ‘we’re out, we’ve heard enough about watermelon rinds, thickness, width and color and differences between green and yellow,’ “Chastain said.
“We literally spent hours and Kevin would make a small tweak and I’d say, ‘no.’ I told him, ‘I’ll know it when I see it.’ He kept asking me to tell him what I wanted and I said, ‘I can’t tell you what I want, I’ll know it when you make it.’
Finally, he spun his computer around and the image you see now was on the screen and I was like, ‘that’s it. That’s what I want.’ I was picky.’’
And it was an immediate hit.
“We saw an opportunity for this logo to serve Ross not only as a driver brand but also a lifestyle brand,’’ the lead designer Erickson said.
That’s certainly the big picture. Chastain’s success now – four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wins, two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and three NASCAR Cup Series victories, including a trophy at Nashville Superspeedway this summer – gives him a national stage to celebrate the Melon Man. And having already secured a second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoff run for 2023 will only increase the popularity of his brand in the present and in the future.
“We felt like with my role in racing and where we were hoping my career to go – which is right where we’ve gotten to, crazy enough – was that Melon Man would live through me in a way it could appeal to all race fans, no matter what,’’ Chastain said. “If they are fan of me, they’ll be a fan of my merch. It’s not on accident that it can live this chameleon life, that it’s for everyone.
“It’s not just for kids, but it is a cartoon. It lives on the shoulders of my racing career right now, but it has the potential to have lines of clothing and hats and be agriculture focused, outdoor life, fishing, everyday life, girls, women’s, kids clothing.”
Certainly “Manny” the Melon Man is now one of the most instantaneously recognizable logos in the sport now. The ability to bring attention to his family’s longstanding livlihood in Alva, Fla. while simultaneously offering a distinct brand for his growing legion of fans has been something Chastain has taken quite seriously.
“Goodwill, happiness, positivity, determination and tenacity” are the words and concepts Chastain and his team carefully selected in creating and defining his brand.
And they are certain that “Manny” the Melon Man will live on even in the decades after Chastain finishes racing – an ode to hard work and uncommon determination that never ages out.
“The brand is built on the shoulders of the foundation of my career,’’ Chastain said. “Yes, I can point to specific moments in time, in my career and use every one of those words to help describe and explain what was going on and what I did, not even understanding what I was doing. I could use all those words.
“And I think anyone that wears the brand one day, whether they are a fan of me or not, that’s the kind of lifestyle they’re wanting to live. They’re not going to take “no” for an answer and they’ll do whatever it takes to find a way to win in life.
“It’s a little odd to say it out loud right now, but that is what it stands for and what I’ve done in the past and look back and self-reflect on can pull even more motivation to do more. I’m definitely not satisfied with where we’re at even now.
“Each time I get to a new spot I’m even more motivated and tenacious to keep moving.”