On the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway, Ross Chastain needed a miracle to qualify for the NASCAR Championship at Phoenix Raceway.
He pulled it off with one of the more incredible finishes to a race that you will ever seen, but now not everyone in NASCAR is happy.
Chastain trailed Denny Hamlin by two points in the NASCAR standings, and was sitting in tenth place on the final lap. He needed to pick up two spots to secure enough points to qualify as one of the four drivers for the Championship, scheduled for November 6 at Phoenix raceway. With a number of drivers ahead of him on the track, it was unlikely that Chastain could make up that ground via conventional means.
So he drew on the video game lessons of his childhood.
Chastain put his Chevrolet into fifth gear, took his hands off the steering wheel, and let the wall guide him around the track. The maneuver worked, as Chastain came across the line in fifth, ahead of Hamlin who placed sixth. Chastain’s daring pass saw him finish sixth points ahead of Hamlin in the yearly standings, enough to qualify along with Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell — who won Sunday’s Race — for the Championship.
Chastain’s wall-assisted move has to be seen to be believed:
UNBELIEVABLE!@RossChastain floors it along the wall to go from 10th to 5th and advance to the CHAMPIONSHIP! #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/9qX3eq7T6h— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 30, 2022
After the race, Chastain discussed his inspiration for the move.
NASCAR 2005 on the Nintendo GameCube.
"Played alot of NASCAR 2005 on the Game Cube. I never knew if it actually worked. I did that when I was 8. I grabbed fifth gear down the back and full committed," says Ross Chastain.— PRN (@PRNlive) October 30, 2022
As someone who always struggled racing at Martinsville, often slamming into the wall going into and coming out of each turn when I played various editions of NASCAR games, I admit at appreciating Chastain’s move perhaps more than most.
How well did Chastain’s move work? This season marks the 75th anniversary of Martinsville, the legendary NASCAR track known that is the shortest on the circuit, and known for its paper-clip design.
On his final lap, Chastain posted a time of just 18.845 seconds.
Which is now the fastest time posted at Martinsville over those 75 years.
This angle of Chastain’s final lap captures perfectly just how he was able to slingshot past the traffic in front, and into the Championship:
This doesn’t even look real— Trackhouse Racing (@TeamTrackhouse) October 31, 2022
Ross fan, @caleb_matthew21 captured it perfectly…we all had the same reaction!
Not everyone was as amazed by the move as the Chastain fan who recorded the above clip. A few NASCAR drivers questioned the safety of the move, wondering if NASCAR would pass rules preventing a similar move in the future. Logano, who will race against Chastain in the Championship, said this after the race: “As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right?” Logano said. “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.”
Logano continued to highlight how the pass was not against the rules, but should be. “I mean, it was awesome, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There’s 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.”
Logano was not alone. Fellow driver Kyle Larson — who attempted a similar move at Darlington last season — admitted that he was “embarrassed” that he had done so, and that Chastain’s move was “not a good look” for the sport:
#NASCAR … Kyle Larson is not a fan of the last-lap move by Ross Chastain along the wall. Larson said it is “not a good look.” He explains … pic.twitter.com/hfYJa2qEeW— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) October 30, 2022
Then there is Hamlin, who ends the year on the outside of the Championship looking in after Chastain’s last-lap heroics. “It’s funny,” Hamlin said, “but not for me. … We lost on a move that’s fair game.”
A NASCAR spokesperson said after the race that the move was fair game, and any driver concerns would be addressed later this week:
Per a NASCAR spokesperson, Ross Chastain's move "was within the bounds of the rule book and (officials) will discuss any driver concerns this week."— Jordan Bianchi (@Jordan_Bianchi) October 30, 2022
One big voice in the NASCAR world did speak Monday in support of Chastain’s move: Larry McReynolds. The former NASCAR crew chief and current analyst for FOX Sports discussed Chastain’s move on his Sirius XM Nascar show Monday, saying the pass “could only happen in NASCAR,” and that the move is “pushing the sport forward:”
In the aftermath of @RossChastain's move yesterday, numerous drivers called for a rule to be enacted to deter it from happening in the future.@LarryMac28 couldn't disagree more. He's all for what Chastain did.— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) October 31, 2022
"Shame on #NASCAR if they are even considering making a rule." pic.twitter.com/hYKT2ArFQ5
Regardless of how one might feel about the move, you have to appreciate the post-race edits of the pass that have surfaced on social media, setting Chastain’s wall-aided pass to music. Perhaps the best of them all has it set to “Free Bird:”
October 30, 2022