NASCAR: How a viral move prevented a major controversy

Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Ross Chastain’s Martinsville move from last October to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 went viral. While now illegal, it served a greater purpose.

“Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again,” — Captain Jack Sparrow, and now probably Ross Chastain.

Ross Chastain’s epic move on the final lap of the NASCAR Cup Series round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway last year to advance to the Championship 4 went so viral that it made it into the top two on SportsCenter Top 10 the next morning, and it wasn’t ranked second, a pretty big accomplishment considering it happened on an NFL Sunday.

The move, which saw Chastain not lift as he rode the outside wall in turns three and four of the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) short track in Ridgeway, Virginia on lap 500 of 500, provided fans with one of the rare moments in recent memory during which the eyes of the sports world turned to stock car racing above all else.

It resulted in Chastain advancing to the Championship 4 over, ironically, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, with whom he had had more than his fair share of on-track run-ins throughout his first year at Trackhouse Racing Team.

Considering the nature of the move, and the fact that Chastain himself has even spoken against the idea of doing it again, NASCAR ended up banning it.

There will be no “Hail Melon” repeat at Martinsville Speedway in this Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the NOCO 400.

We recently spoke to Chastain about that move and whether or not it was something he had ever even considered before that last lap.

He stated that it was nothing more than desperation.

“It was heat of the moment off turn four coming to the last lap,” Chastain told Beyond the Flag. “The white flag was in the air, we had run 499 laps, getting ready to run the last 500th one. And it popped in my head. I confirmed that we had to make up two spots, and they said yes, and I fully committed.

“Had never thought about it [before that]. I said in my post-race stuff that maybe the GameCube back in the day with [my brother] Chad, but man, that would have been so long ago. I’d have been 10 years old. I never put any thought into doing it again in NASCAR. I don’t know why it popped in my head, other than I was just looking for any way to make up two spots.”

As it turns out, because of the post-race disqualification of Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 RFK Racing Ford and the points/stage points changes associated with that disqualification, Chastain didn’t actually need to make that move to advance to the Championship 4.

So with a now-illegal move, he effectively prevented a potential controversy, since there certainly would have been some level of fallout had Hamlin initially advanced to the Championship 4 — and then been replaced by Chastain hours after the race, thanks to an unrelated disqualification.

Separately, Chastain admitted that short tracks are the one area in which he feels that he and the No. 1 team need to improve the most throughout the 2023 season.

“Short tracks for sure,” he said. “And this new aero package throws a whole new curveball into that. But Trackhouse and GM have put a lot of effort into it. It’s not like I’m expecting it just to switch. We can’t win every race, that would probably be awfully greedy of us, but we’re going to go try it.”

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Tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 3:00 p.m. ET this Sunday afternoon for the live broadcast of the NOCO 400 from Martinsville Speedway. If you have not already begun a free trial of FuboTV, take advantage of this offer and do so now!