MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ross Chastain was trying to figure out what he had been doing nearly an hour after his video game move turned the Cup playoffs upside down and wowed a sold-out Martinsville Speedway while worrying some drivers and NASCAR officials about such a maneuver possible rule change to ensure this never happens again.
“It’s incredible that we did something that no one has ever done before,” said Chastain of his last lap run on the rim.
But what to call the wall-hugging movement was too difficult a question for him to answer.
“I’ll check the Internet,” he said.
Instead, it was easier for him to answer how he’d crashed his car into the wall as fast as he could.
“It was fight or flight,” Chastain explained.
Chastain was two points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot into next week’s championship race on the final lap. Chastain was too far behind to make those two positions, so on the backstretch he put his car in fifth gear, parked his Chevrolet against the wall, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his vehicle the last quarter mile, while he hit the ground the throttle landed.
“My brain couldn’t understand it, my range was gone when I pulled into (Turn) 3 and put it in fifth gear,” said Chastain. “Everything blurred. I could not believe it.”
It’s understandable why. Data from Chastain’s car shows that his top speed at turns 3 and 4 on the final lap was 80 km/h faster than a normal lap.
Cole Custer, who was after Chastain, told NBC Sports that he originally thought the #1 Chevrolet lost its brakes until he realized what Chastain was doing.
“That was crazy,” Custer said. “He’s got some balls. That was cool.”
Chastain’s car seemed to be going at a cartoonish speed compared to the rest of the field.
He passed five cars between Turn 3 and the finish line to score enough points to beat Hamlin to face Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Martinsville winner Christopher Bell for the championship on November 6 at Phoenix Raceway.
“How did that work?” Chastain later spoke about his move.
However, at Martinsville Speedway, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, he set the fastest lap ever set by a stock car. The track record was 18.954 seconds. Chastain’s final lap was 18.845 seconds.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 30, 2022
Chastain said he had never tried anything like this in a car before. He said he first saw such a move in a video game more than 15 years ago.
“My brother Chad hit me at it,” Chastain said.
“On the white flag (lap), it flashed in my head. … If it breaks, OK, we can’t make it. It might not work, but I’ll try.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the move.
Kyle Larson, who attempted a similar wall-riding move at Darlington last year, disapproved of Chastain’s actions on Sunday.
“It just looks bad,” Larson said. “I’m embarrassed I did it in Darlington. If I hadn’t done it last year people might not even think of it, so I’m embarrassed myself and glad I didn’t win that way (at Darlington). It’s not just good looks. Not good looks. … It’s embarrassing.”
Larson continued, “If you think (Chastain’s move is fair), then why do you think that’s fair?”
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) October 30, 2022
Logano enjoyed Chastain’s move but also suggested the sport shouldn’t see such a daring trick again, citing safety concerns.
“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is that the box is open now, isn’t it?” said Logano. “Now every Xfinity race, every truck race, every cup race, no matter the track, this wall driving will be a game. This is not good. This is not good.
“I mean it was great, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There is no rule against it. There must be a rule against this because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall to get to the checkered flag.
Logano suggested that a rule needs to be introduced ahead of this weekend’s championship races in Truck, Xfinity and Cup.
A NASCAR spokesman said Sunday night that Chastain’s move was “within the bounds of the rulebook and (officials) will be addressing any driver concerns this week.”
That doesn’t even look real 😳
ross fan, @caleb_matthew21 captured it perfectly…we all had the same reaction!
— Trackhouse Race (@TeamTrackhouse) October 31, 2022
Hamlin, who was eliminated by Chastain’s indictment, admitted his team’s struggles in the pits played a factor in him not making it to the title race. Still, losing at such a move by a competitor.
“It’s funny,” Hamlin said, “but not for me. … We lost with a move that’s fair game.”
Chase Briscoe admitted that “I think we’ve all thought about” doing what Chastain did, but not doing.
Briscoe was the first car Chastain passed. Then Bubba Wallace, Logano, William Byron and Hamlin just before the finish line.
“I wish I did it now,” Briscoe said of Chastain’s move. “It’s like a 50-50 deal. Any of us could have done it, but is it fair to the (five) guys he passed? Probably not. But all of us (five) could have done the same.”
Instead, it was Chastain who did it.
But after watching a video of his daring move?
“I can’t believe I’m in there,” he said.