Racing is often measured by the unexpected. This or that happened and few, if any, saw it coming or could stack the available information to even imagine it.
As the 2023 NASCAR season opens, there have already been some unexpected incidents. Stenhouse winning Daytona…? Kyle Busch winning so early with a new car and team…? Byron sweeping stages and the win at Vegas…? Elliott out from a snowboard accident…?
These were unlikely events if placing bets but are now in the books as fact.
However, these new events for the new season were set aside as Martinsville Speedway and NASCAR took time to remember an event that eclipses the unexpected. The October, 2022 last lap “Hail Melon” accelerated wall ride by Ross Chastain to make the Championship Four is that event.
On Tuesday, March 7th, Chastain returned to Martinsville Speedway. The wall in turns 3 and 4 have been left as they were following the high speed retaining hug of the #1 Moose Camaro. Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell walked with Chastain as they discussed the thoughts, timing and action of that last lap of the 2022 Xfnity 500.
It really wasn’t a planned thing, but it was an “all or nothing” thing as Chastain exited turn two and set things in motion with a full throttle attack on turn three. The impact, he says, was a bit more harsh than anticipated but the car hung on. The tires held. He let go of the steering wheel at one point and exited turn four having to grab the wheel again. He slingshot by Denny Hamlin to take the line a half length or so in front. Ross Chastain grabbed the finish needed to make his way into the “Playoff Four”.
For the effort and the torn up right side of a car, he finished fourth. It was on spot ahead of Hamlin which made the difference as he edged Hamlin out of championship contention. The following week for the final race at Phoenix, Chastain did well with a third place finish after starting back in the pack at 25th. Joey Logano won the race and the season.
NASCAR has since made changes on rules and the accelerated wall hug move is now illegal. It isn’t a new rule but a clarification on safety rulings which encompasses the potential risks of the maneuver to fans and other drivers.
The mid week visit by Ross Chastain was also marked by the removal of a section of the retaining wall in turn three and four. Chastain used a Kubota fork tractor to lift the middle section up and off the track. It will be set aside for later display, possibly even at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A new section will be placed and the entire turn three and four wall will be repainted and ready when NASCAR returns to Martinsville Speedway in April.
Photo Gallery of Ross Chastain at Martinsville Speedway