Ross Chastain made the pass, or passes in this case, of the century in last Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at the Martinville (VA) Speedway. On a day that passing proved to be difficult, Chastain took matters into his own hands on the final lap of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.
The 29-year-old, eighth generation watermelon farmer, was in 10th place exiting Turn 2. When told he needed to make up two spots and not cars realistically in site to gain them, he used a maneuver that he saw in an old video game when he was 8 years old.
As the week has now gone on, I feel like the mood in the industry has changed it’s tenor. It went from this is the greatest thing that we’ve ever seen to, we can’t let this happen again. Drivers warned even in the waning moments of Chastain’s move last Sunday that NASCAR should step in and save them for themselves or what’s going to stop someone from copying this move to use in the future.
Kyle Larson said it was embarrassing. Some said it make NASCAR looked amateurish. Others warned that what would stop other drivers from doing this again in the future?
“I think all of us have done it on some video games, whatnot. He executed it well. Curious to see what kind worm hole that opens up at the end of these races going forward,” Chase Briscoe said.
Joey Logano was even more critical of the maneuver.
“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right?” said Joey Logano “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.
“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.
“I don’t know if it’s the safest thing for the driver or the fans when you have a car right up at the wall hauling the mail like that. What if that fence, gate, wasn’t closed all the way? What if it was bent and caught his car? That’s a big risk that Ross was willing to take. God bless him, that’s awesome.
“I don’t think we need to do that every week.”
His teammate Ryan Blaney noted that he saw the move and said why not do that every week?
“I just saw it and I guess I wish I should have done it. I guess we’ll all start doing it now coming down to the end of the race,” he says.
So, with Phoenix having an arching corner to the finish line, what would stop the second or third place cars in the Championship 4 to make a dire move on Sunday to take home the title. What would stop the leader from taking himself out of the racing groove and into the wall to counter?
“That’s why I’m saying we probably need to do something about it before next week,” Logano said last Sunday. “Like I said, the box is open now. It’s going to continue to happen until we do something about it.
“Yeah, I mean, Phoenix presents the opportunity for it, too. A little different entry point and all that. But, yeah, when you’re going for a championship, you’re probably going to do it.
“You’re leading going into the last corner, you’re going to put it in the wall? Geez. It’s cool, it happened once, we don’t need to make this a thing.
“We can’t make it a thing. I mean, hey, the first time it happens, that’s pretty awesome. I mean, if that don’t make SportsCenter’s top 10 plays, I don’t know what does. Race into a championship, that’s crazy.
“I haven’t really talked to Ross. I don’t know how he feels about it. You think about getting bounced off the wall like that, your head is bouncing around like crazy. You touch the fence, there’s no suspension between the car and the fence. You know what I mean? It’s really rough if you start riding the wall like that.
“Like I said, we need to do something about it. It was awesome. If we did it every week, it wouldn’t be very professional at all. But since this is the first time, hey, more power to him.”
NASCAR however talked about the move on Tuesday and said that they’re not going to take any action against future use of it and that it was perfectly legal in their eyes.
“As with anything you see for a first time, you’ve got to take a look,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve had a number of discussions internally about that move and what-ifs. That’s within the rules, and believe that is where we’ll be for Phoenix, as well, and then something we can evaluate in the offseason.”
“At this point in looking at it, it was a move within the bounds of the rule book and really don’t think it’s right to adjust the rules when for 35 points races we’ve been one way and throw a wrinkle in it for the 36th (race).”
So, would any of the four drivers make the move on Sunday? They talked about the fact during Thursday’s media day.
“If NASCAR does not put a rule in place or police wall riding, I think that that will open up a huge, huge can of worms,” said Christopher Bell on Thursday afternoon. “I think that all four of us will do whatever it takes to win a championship.
“I hope that they do because I can promise you that it will be used again.”
Would he do so?
“The difference is the dogleg is hundredths of a second. The wall is much, much, much greater than that,” says Bell.
What about Chase Elliott’s thoughts?
“Yeah, I mean, I think there’s certainly two sides of it, right?” he says. “I think from a global perspective of our sport, it is kind of embarrassing in some ways just from an integrity standpoint of what we do week to week.
“From a standpoint of a guy doing what he needed to do to get the job done, yeah, I think you can have respect for that for sure. But you’re not allowed to cut courses, road courses, and things like that.
“I just think from a global perspective, for the integrity of what we do, it’s not a great look, in my opinion. What do you do?
“You think about this, right? We as a sport, NASCAR has gone through leaps and bounds to make these cars equal, right? Crew chiefs are getting suspended for a month because a piece of tape is in the wrong place.
“All of a sudden a guy runs two seconds faster in the field.
“You tell me, right?
“I get it. For those of you that just walked up, I totally get it. I think there’s admiration for a guy doing what he had to do to get it done, right? I think we can all respect that.
“The aspect that I’m trying to explain to you in another way is certainly relevant.”
Elliott was non-committal on if he’d make the move on Sunday saying that he just hopes that he’s not in a position to have to do so. Logano says that his stance hasn’t changed one iota.
“It was really amazing to see it happen. We saw it work,” he said on Thursday. “What happens when it doesn’t work because there’s a good chance it doesn’t at some point? What if that car went up in the air into the catch fence?
“The other piece too you have to think about is not only the risk for the driver and the fans but the integrity of the sport. Is that what we want? Yes, it was cool, made top 10 plays, as it should. It was awesome. I’m not taking that away from Ross.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, it doesn’t take much talent to do it. It just takes an insane amount of guts to do it because you’re taking a huge risk. Wide open, putting it to the wall, that’s what you did when you were a kid racing a video game and you couldn’t get around Martinsville. That is what you did. He just actually did it in real life, which is amazing.
“I don’t think we want to see all the cars going into the wall the final corner of every race on the last lap. I don’t know if that’s what we want.
“It’s risky. It’s not the X Games. This is NASCAR. It’s a different thing than that.
“I mean, there’s a place for it. Like I said, it was cool, it was a neat move. We all talked about doing it before he actually did it. He had a good reason for doing it. He’s rewarded for being in the championship. That’s fine, all well and good.
“The next time it happens it’s not as cool. The next time, the next time… All of a sudden now a leader has to put himself in the fence to finish first. At that point it doesn’t look really right. In my opinion, it doesn’t look right at that point.”
What about Chastain? Would he do it again with a title on the line?
“I don’t think it’s a move that can have any success at Martinsville,” he notes. “I still don’t know why it worked. Like, I look back at it, I look at the physics of it, I have people explain to me what happened, what I felt, why that car did not slow down, why it kept air in the tires.
“The right front suspension broke, the right front upper control arm is broken, but I was able to get across the line before I could feel it. Down into one, I kept it pinned on the wall because it was broken.
“Why it worked, I don’t know. I have no ideas or plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant.”