MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ross Chastain was trying to figure out what he had done for nearly an hour after his video game move upended the Cup playoffs and thrilled the sold-out Martinsville Speedway, while leaving some drivers uneasy about such a maneuver and NASCAR officials considering a possible change of the rules to make sure it never happens again.
“It’s sinking in that we’ve done something that no one else has ever done,” Chastain said of her latest lap, riding a rim.
But what to call the wall hug was too difficult a question for him to answer.
“I’ll check on the internet,” he said.
Instead, it was easier for him to answer how he drove his car into the wall as fast as possible.
“It was fight or flight,” Chastain explained.
Chastain was two points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot in next week’s championship race on the final lap. Chastain was too far behind to gain those two positions, so he shifted his car into fifth gear on the backstretch, backed his Chevrolet up against the wall, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his car around the final quarter mile until he fell throttle.
“My brain couldn’t figure it out, my bandwidth was shot when I went into (Turn) 3 and got into fifth gear,” Chastain said. “Everything got blurry. I couldn’t understand it.”
It’s understandable why. Data from Chastain’s car revealed that her top speed through Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap was 50 mph faster than a normal lap.
Cole Custer, who was trailing behind Chastain, told NBC Sports he initially thought the No. 1 Chevrolet had lost its brakes until he realized what Chastain was doing.
“It was crazy,” Custer said. “He’s got some balls. That was great.
Chastain’s car seemed to be moving at a cartoonish speed compared to the rest of the field.
He passed five cars between Turn 3 and the finish line to earn enough points to beat Hamlin for a chance to compete with Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Martinsville winner Christopher Bell for the championship on Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.
“How did that happen?” Chastain later said of her move.
However, it did set the fastest lap ever by a production car at the Martinsville track, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. 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 more than 15 years ago in a video game.
“My brother Chad beat me to it,” Chastain said.
“It flashed back in my head on the white flag (lap). … If it crashes, well, we’re not going to make it. It might not work, but I’ll try.
Not everyone was thrilled with the move.
Kyle Larson, who tried a similar move on the wall at Darlington last year, frowned at Chastain’s actions on Sunday.
“It’s just a bad look,” Larson said. “I’m ashamed I did it at Darlington. Maybe if I hadn’t done it last year, people wouldn’t have even thought of doing it, so I’m ashamed myself and I’m glad I didn’t win that way (at Darlington). It’s not just good looks. It doesn’t look good. … It’s embarrassing.”
Larson continued by saying, “If you think (Chastain’s move is fair), why do you think it’s fair?”
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) October 30, 2022
Logano was happy for Chastain’s move, but also suggested the sport shouldn’t see such a daring stunt again, citing safety concerns.
“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the can is open, right?” Logano said. “Now every Xfinity race, every truck race, every Cup race, regardless of track, that wall ride is going to be a game. This is not good. This is not good.
“I mean, it was great, it was great. It happened for the first time. There is no rule against it. There should be a rule against that because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall to get to the checkered flag.”
Logano suggested having a rule before this weekend’s championship races in Truck, Xfinity and Cup.
A NASCAR spokesman said Sunday night that Chastain’s move “is within the rule book and (officials) will address any concerns the driver has this week.”
This doesn’t even look real 😳
ross fan, @caleb_matthew21 captured it perfectly…we all had the same reaction!
— Trackhouse Racing (@TeamTrackhouse) October 31, 2022
Hamlin, eliminated by Chastain’s hit, admitted his team’s struggles in the pits had played a factor in keeping him out of the title race. Still to lose with such a move of a competitor.
“It’s funny,” Hamlin said, “but not for me. … We lost on a move that is fair game.”
Chase Briscoe admitted that “I think we’ve all thought” about doing what Chastain did, but we don’t.
Briscoe was the first car Chastain passed. Then Bubba Wallace, Logano, William Byron and Hamlin just before the finish line.
“I wish I had done it now,” Briscoe said of Chastain’s move. “It’s like a 50-50 deal. Any of us could do it, but is it fair to the (five) guys he passed? Probably not. But all of us (five) could do the same.
Instead, Chastain did.
But after watching a video of his daring move?
“I can’t believe it’s me in there,” he said.