Ross Chastain’s NASCAR Wall Ride should be immortalized but not repeated – Road & Track | CarTailz

Ross Chastain pulled off the most exciting pass since Alex Zanardi’s famous corkscrew move on Sunday. Chastain needed two places into a corner to progress and have a championship shot. Chastain kept his foot down and slammed into the outside wall in Martinsville to move up four places. It was electrifying, the best and most memorable moment in a NASCAR race in years, so memorable that it played for the Americans between the halves of the NFL’s prime-time Sunday matchups. It also opened a can of worms that will be difficult to close again.

The concept of wall riding isn’t new, as anyone who’s played racing video games can tell you. It has been tried at NASCAR races on a few occasions in the past, most notably when Carl Edwards tried it in Kansas in 2008 and when Kyle Larson tried the same thing in Darlington last year. The key difference is that the move didn’t really work in either case. At the time, it seemed that in a real wallride situation, the physics just didn’t work in the rider’s favor.

However, Chastain’s gambit worked better than anyone could have imagined. Sure, he successfully smashed the right side of his car, but just by hitting the wall in the last two corners he set a lap time of 18.8, a full second quicker than the weekend’s pole time and about two seconds off that Race pace on lap forward. That means there’s something here.

What exactly worked is still unclear. Is it Martinsville’s flat corners? Is it the sheer difference between cornering speeds at the apex and straight-line speeds compared to faster tracks? Will the construction of the next-gen car change the game on trains like this? The teams have to answer this question within a week. And now that the train is on tape, the teams can study that. They can also study throttle, steering and GPS tracking data, giving each team on the grid the tools they need to figure out exactly what Chastain did.

A significant part of auto racing is finding those unfair advantages, the things that give a driver or team a significant and repeatable boost. Chastain’s move was so effective that wallriding has suddenly evolved from every rider’s beloved, widely discredited game of desperation into something to consider going forward. If a team can figure out exactly what went on here, the logical conclusion is that they would have to do so at the end of every single race it might count in, or risk losing as many places as Chastain does every last one today round won.

Wall rides will not work everywhere. On most larger tracks with more bank, the much smaller difference between cornering speed and straight line speed should make the advantage irrelevant. Some routes, like street courses and superspeedways, just don’t make sense for the move. But there are circuits worth trying, and most importantly, the season ends on one of these weekends.

This puts NASCAR in an awkward position where they are unlikely to do anything right now. If the four Championship Four teams manage to repeat the Wall Ride in Phoenix, it will be a must in a close race. One such team is Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing, which has full access to the car that actually made it and the most robust dataset to determine what went right and what could be improved. The magic moment could quickly turn sour when many cars intentionally collide on the final lap to keep up with what may suddenly have become NASCAR’s newest metagame just a week later.

That’s why NASCAR should step in during the off-season. Now that this is known as a possibility, eventually a team will find a way to get consistent benefits in every place it can be used. When that happens and teams create a list of tracks where the strategy works, it slowly goes from being a late-race desperate option to a field-wide must. New strategies are devised to block the move, millions are wasted on repairs that are virtually mandatory, and moments that started as all-time highs become a frustrating routine.

This can all stop now. Writing the specific rule will be difficult, particularly with NASCAR’s patchy history of officiating its own rule book, but existing throttle and steering tracks will allow the series to gauge intent and dish out post-race penalties. Every rule must be written around this, with penalties if a driver shows an unusual deviation from how he would normally take a corner to put the wall into play. It’s another box no team wants to open, but similar track limit rules already exist and are enforced on both superspeedways and packracing street courses.

However, each rule that eliminates the move should be accompanied by something else. Chastain’s moment yesterday was truly awesome, one of the best in NASCAR history, and every episode of it should be careful not only not to discredit him, but to celebrate it. The rule should be seen as a celebration of something so successful it needed to be banned, like rules banning ground effects or blown diffusers in Formula 1. The track itself can take this a step further and commemorate Chastain’s move with some sort of statue or other permanent fixture. This is a heroic moment in stock car racing history that deserves to be celebrated, even if it deserves new rules of the series itself.

That’s the spirit of auto racing, after all. A big part of the sport is figuring something out before your competitors and taking that unfair advantage while that particular iron is hot. The sport then responds by either regulating it before it takes over or embracing it as a core part of a future series. Wallriding falls into the first category, and Chastain’s move should be immortalized as his finest moment.

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