NASCAR Cup Series
Ty Gibbs Ready to Accept Consequences from Martinsville Incident
Nov 3, 2022
To advance to the final four, Ross Chastain executed one of the wildest, most inconceivable moves in NASCAR history and his peers aren’t sure it should ever be permitted again.
Needing to gain two positions on the final lap on Sunday at Martinsville, Chastain grabbed fifth gear and drove full throttle into the wall in Turns 3 and 4 and never lifted until he got past the finish line, picking up five spots and earning the opportunity to race for the championship.
They’re calling it the Hail Melon.
And now that this car has proven durable enough to make it work at Martinsville, now there is a natural curiosity of if the championship could be won with a similar maneuver on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Chastain himself has not tested such a move at Phoenix on the simulator but teammate Daniel Suarez has.
Has Chastain considered it?
"I don't want to do it again," Chastain said on Sunday at Championship Media Day in Phoenix. "Going to Phoenix, a lot of people are thinking if you can do it again and I was in the car at Martinsville it was not pleasant. I don't want to do it again. It does not feel good to slam the wall and ride it that long and the G-forces that I felt are not really something I want to feel ever again."
But there is a conviction it could be done again and be done on Sunday -- especially if the championship comes down to a late restart.
"I hope that (they make a rule against it) because I promise you it will be used again," Christopher Bell said.
In choosing to run the championship race at Phoenix, NASCAR seemingly is willing to tolerate some degree of shenanigans as the track features a short cut built into the dog leg but Bell said it's not the same as running full throttle around the wall.
"The difference is that the dogleg is a hundredth of a second and the wall is much much much greater than that," Bell added.
For his part, Joey Logano called the move ‘awesome’ but questioned if it should be acceptable for so many reasons.
"We saw it work," Logano said. "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."
Logano also indicated it wasn’t a reflection of the talent required to race at the highest level.
"Don't take this the wrong way, it doesn't take much talent to do it," Logano said. "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."
Similarly, Chase Elliott gave all due credit to Chastain for happened in the moment but said it can’t become a fixture in the sport for reasons entrenched in both safety and sporting integrity.
"It’s certainly commendable for a guy to do what he had to do to get the job done," Elliott said. "I totally respect that and I think that deserves some respect. From the global landscape of our sport, when you kind of step back and look at it, I think it is a bit embarrassing really.
"NASCAR has put a lot of time and effort into making these cars equal. We’re suspending crew chiefs for weeks for pieces of vinyl being in the wrong place. Then you go break the track record and run two seconds faster than everybody, it’s just like from an integrity standpoint of what we do, is that proper?
"I don’t know, maybe it’s not for me to say. It certainly is interesting. At the end of the day, I don’t personally care. I just want to be in a position to be out front and far enough from everybody where it doesn’t matter."
Would Chase Elliott do it on Sunday?
"I would like to be in a position to not have to," he said.
Logano said this is Cup Series racing and not extreme sports.
It's not the X Games. This is NASCAR. It's a different thing than that.
"I mean, there's a place for it," Logano said. "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."
Does Chastain feel like it could work at Phoenix?
"I don't think it's a move that can have any success at Martinsville," Chastain said with a laugh. "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."