MARTINSVILLE, VA — Ross Chastain’s kamikaze move on the final lap of Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway will be discussed for years to come. This is a highlight reel moment for NASCAR. Good thing too because if he didn’t make it, goodness gracious NASCAR would have had a black eye moment heading to the Championship 4 this weekend in Phoenix.
When exiting Turn 2 on the last lap, Denny Hamlin was in 5th place. Chastain was 10th. He was +2 over Chastain at that moment. Chastain made up 5 spots though in 1 set of corners with his decision to do what he did in going from 10th to finishing 5th. It bumped Hamlin down to 6th.
The thing is, he didn’t end up having to do that. Brad Keselowski initially finished 4th, one spot in front of Chastain, but later was disqualified and dropped to a last place finish instead. According to NASCAR, they found that Keselowski’s car failed to meet minimum weight requirements as outlined in section 14.11.2 of the rule book.
As a result of that, it means Keselowski’s stage points get taken away too shifting everybody up one spot. Hamlin swept the stages so he wasn’t affected. Chastain was 9th in both stages where Keselowski was 6th in Stage 1 and 7th in Stage 2. That would in turn move Chastain up to an 8th place finish in both stages netting him 2 additional points in the process.
Remember, he was -2 on the last lap. If he doesn’t make that move and finishes 10th, then he moves onto the Championship 4 anyways in winning the tiebreaker over Hamlin.
Those 2 stage points would have been enough.
Here’s where this gets tricky, at the drop of the checkered flag, it would have placed Hamlin NOT Chastain into the final round by 2 points. It wasn’t until 8:19 p.m. ET that NASCAR announced Keselowski’s car failed post race inspection. That was nearly three hours after the completion of the race with the checkered flag coming out at 5:35 p.m. ET.
Can you imagine this scenario to where three hours later, Chastain was moved from the outside to in and Hamlin from in to out? It would have been chaotic and an unfortunate set of circumstances heading to the championship race.
In a year to where NASCAR’s officiating coming into question a lot lately, Chastain’s move helped NASCAR dodge a bullet here…