Driver Ross Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of last year’s NASCAR season.
Do not expect to see it replicated anytime soon.
Needing to move up a few places in the closing lap of the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway to qualify for the final four in the last race of the season, Chastain put his Chevrolet into the wall, and rode it around the track, rocketing into fifth place. That finish was good enough to put him in the final four for the season finale.
The move has often been referred to as a “Hail Melon,” NASCAR’s version of the Hail Mary you see on the gridiron.
However, the move came with some criticism, and now NASCAR is stepping in. Ahead of the 2023 season, the sport announced that similar moves would now be a penalty.
Citing an existing rule, NASCAR announced that such a move would now result in a penalty. The rule in question — 10.5.2.6.A — states that “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM (NASCAR Event Management). Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
In announcing the emphasis on the existing rule Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said this about the ending at Martinsville: “Basically, if there’s an act that we feel that compromises the safety of our competitors, officials, spectators,” Sawyer said, “we’re going to take that seriously. And we will penalize for that act going forward. Basically, what it would be is a lap or time penalty at the end of the race, so that move at Martinsville would be a penalty.”
However, it was unlikely that Chastain would duplicate his Martinsville Hail Melon anytime soon. While it worked, it was not the most enjoyable experience. “Why it worked? I don’t know, but I have no ideas or plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant,” Chastain said before the season’s final race.