Chastain rides the wall in NASCAR title race

There has been an internal battle raging inside Ross Chastain as he battles his way to the NASCAR Championship Finals.

He’s an eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida who was never meant to reach the top level of stock car racing.

But he did, and it forced Chastain to navigate his way through traffic from journeyman driver to a top team with winning cars. He built up a strong list of rivals critical of his aggressive style along the way, and as it became clear that Chastain might in fact have a shot at the Cup title, he began to wonder if his rivals were right about him.

Was he making too many mistakes? Are you trying too hard? Did he need a different approach?

It doesn’t matter now.

With a berth in the NASCAR Championship Finals in sight if Chastain could pull off a miracle, he went video game-style and used a wall trick he’d tried as a kid while playing NASCAR 2005 on his Nintendo GameCube.

Two points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot for next week’s race, Chastain found himself too far behind to make up ground. So he shifted his Chevrolet into fifth gear on the back straight, deliberately hit the wall at Martinsville Speedway, then took his hands off the wheel.

Chastain let the wall guide the No. 1 the final quarter mile around the Virginia short track with his foot flat on the gas. He went from 10th to 5th while the breathtaking movement pulled his Chevy around the cars and in the last four.

“It’s the best thing of 2022 in motor racing!” Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso tweeted on Monday. “We’ve all done this on video games with damage disabled. I never thought this could come true.

The decision placed Chastain in the championship four for the first time in his career, in his second season of full-time Cup racing with a competitive team. It also gave second-year team Trackhouse Racing their first shot at winning the title.

Chastain said he was beaten by the move on his brother’s video game at “Dodge Raceway somewhere in a fake town, somewhere in Florida,” but he never actually tried it in real life.

In fact, he has repeatedly pointed out that it didn’t even cross his mind to ride the wall until his season was half a turn from the end.

“It never crossed my mind or ever tried. I want to make this clear. The last time would have been a long time ago before I even thought about becoming a NASCAR driver,” Chastain said. came back to lead on the white flag.”

Chastain is now celebrated in all circles of motorsport: the same driver who, during this season of clashes with rivals, turned into a verb when Kyle Busch said “I got Chastained” after an incident on the track.

It was the fastest lap a production car has ever achieved at Martinsville, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The track record was 18.954 seconds. Chastain’s last lap was 18.845 seconds and he was hurtling between 50 and 70 mph faster than the cars he passed as the wall guided him.

NASCAR said Chastain’s decision was legal.

Its competitors aren’t sure it should stay that way.

Hamlin Crew chef Chris Gabehart noted “The tracks are not built with this in mind from a safety point of view. Someone could get hurt… OFF the track.

Kyle Larson attempted a similar maneuver at Darlington Raceway last year and has since wished he never led by example.

“It’s just a bad look. I’m embarrassed that I made it to Darlington,” Larson said. “Maybe if I hadn’t done it last year people wouldn’t even think about it, so I myself am embarrassed and happy that I didn’t win (Darlington) that way.”

It’s not that the pilots didn’t like the move – even Chase Briscoe I tried it on a video game later on Sunday night and complained when it didn’t work in the imagination – and Kevin Harvick noted that Chastain would not have succeeded if not for NASCAR’s enduring new Next Gen car. He also predicted that NASCAR would potentially ban such moves.

“I guess that will be the only time you will see this. But establishing a rule is always a feather in the hat! Harvick tweeted.

Joey Logano even called on NASCAR to take action ahead of this weekend’s finale at Phoenix Raceway, where the championships will be decided in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series. NASCAR is already shrouded in Xfinity Series controversy after Ty Gibbs destroyed teammate Brandon Jones to win Saturday at Martinsville and knock Jones out of the playoffs.

“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem now is that the box is open, isn’t it?” Logan said. “Now every Xfinity race, every truck race, every cup race, no matter what track, that wall is going to be a game. It’s not good. It’s not good.

“I mean, it was awesome, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There’s no rule against it. There has to be a rule against it because I don’t know not if you want the whole peloton riding the wall to come to the checkered flag.

Chastain, now a household name in the racing world, wasn’t sure what NASCAR could do with his experience. All he knows is that he will face Logano, Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott next Sunday for the Cup championship.

“I am proud to be in this circus. I am proud of my brothers and sisters with whom I will fight. They might get mad at me. It was crazy racing against my heroes,” Chastain said. “The craziest thing is when they’re mad at me. I’ve had crew members mad at me this year. It is the most humiliating experience I have ever had.

“So to have more recognition or more smiles in my way, whether it was because it was crazy or not, I don’t care. I’ll take it. I don’t get a lot of it from the garage. Just them grateful that whether it was good or bad on their side, they acknowledged, they smiled, gave me a thumbs up and I take it.

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