It was a move straight out of a video game, one that will be talked about for quite some time, and one that will probably never be repeated.
At Martinsville Speedway Sunday, Ross Chastain needed to make up spots in order to advance to NASCAR’s Championship 4. In the closing laps his nearest rival for the final transfer position on points Denny Hamlin was running fifth; Chastain tenth.
On the final lap as Christopher Bell was heading to the finish line to secure the race win, Chastain slammed his Chevy full throttle against the outside wall entering Turn 3 and at breakneck speed rode the wall around the turns, past Hamlin and finished ahead of Hamlin in fifth, and made the final cutoff spot for the Championship 4.
It was a move that former driver Carl Edwards tried at Kansas Speedway in September 2008 on the final lap of that race as he tried to make a move to win the race over Jimmie Johnson. Edwards threw his Ford into the outside wall in Turn 3 in an attempt to get by Johnson. Unfortunately, he put the car into the wall too hard and the move failed.
Sunday Chastain was able to pull it off, rocketing through the turns, and setting a new track record by 2.5 seconds in the process. Chastain later joked that it was a move he learned playing video games against his brother when he was younger.
“Oh, played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the game cube with Chad growing up,” he said. “You can get away with it. I never knew if it would actually work.
“I mean, I did that when I was eight years old. I grabbed fifth gear, asked off of two on the last lap if we needed it, and we did. I couldn’t tell who was leading. I made the choice, grabbed fifth gear down the back. Full committed. Basically, let go of the wheel, hoping I didn’t catch the turn four access gate or something crazy. But I was willing to do it.”
The bold move stunned everyone who was watching and elicited respect from the driver he eliminated from the Playoffs, Denny Hamlin.
“Great move. Brilliant,” Hamlin said smiling. “Certainly, a great move. When you have no other choice, it certainly is easy to do that. But well executed.”
Chastain later said the move was a culmination of an entire season.
“I don’t know what you want to call it,” he said. “I’m proud that we had a chance. That’s all that we ask for. Like I said, it was the combination of the last few weeks and the previous 34 races to get us here. That’s all we ask for.
“Yeah, I took a crazy move that nobody would have ever thought. When I committed, I had no idea if it would work. With the access gate off turn four, I didn’t know if it would catch me and stop me. But I knew that I would try, and it wasn’t going to hurt us.”
While most drivers seemed to respect the move, just as many were critical of it, and for good reason.
“We all did it as kids,” Joey Logano said. “We all did it in the video game. That’s how you made speed in the video game, that’s what you did (smiling).
Logano pointed out that every driver has probably thought about making such a move to win a race, but cautioned:
“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right? Now every Xfinity race, every Truck race, every Cup race, no matter the track, this wall riding is going to be a play. That’s not good. That’s not good.”
He added that while it was cool, and awesome and it happened for the first time, right now there is no rule against it.
“There needs to be a rule against this one because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall coming to the checkered flag,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s the safest thing for the driver or the fans when you have a car right up at the wall hauling the mail like that. What if that fence, gate, wasn’t closed all the way? What if it was bent and caught his car? That’s a big risk that Ross was willing to take. God bless him, that’s awesome.
“I don’t think we need to do that every week.”
Logano hopes NASCAR will do something about it, and quickly. The final race of the season, the one that will determine a champion is now less then one week away.
“That’s why I’m saying we probably need to do something about it before next week,” he said. “Like I said, the box is open now. It’s going to continue to happen until we do something about it.
“Yeah, I mean, Phoenix presents the opportunity for it, too. A little different entry point and all that. But, yeah, when you’re going for a championship, you’re probably going to do it.
“You’re leading going into the last corner, you’re going to put it in the wall? Geez. It’s cool, it happened once, we don’t need to make this a thing.”
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) October 30, 2022
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