Long: Ross Chastain’s frenzied finale divides the contenders

Long: Ross Chastain’s frenzied finale divides the contenders

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ross Chastain was trying to figure out what he did for nearly an hour after his video game move turned the Cup playoffs on its head and thrilled a sold-out Martinsville Speedway while leaving some drivers uncomfortable with such a maneuver, and NASCAR officials are mulling a possible rule change to keep them safe that it never happens again.

“It’s sinking in that we’ve done something that no one else has ever done,” Chastain said of her final lap, the rim ride.

But what to call the wall hug move was too difficult a question for him to answer.

“I’ll check the internet,” he said.

Instead, it was easier for him to answer that he rammed the car into the wall as fast as he could.

“It was fight or flight,” Chastain explained.

Chastain was two points behind Denny Hamlin for the final move to next week’s championship race in the final lap. Chastain was too far behind to make up those two positions so he put his car in 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 for the final quarter mile while he dropped the floor. gas.

“My brain couldn’t figure it out, my bandwidth was hit going into (Turn) 3 and I grabbed fifth gear,” Chastain said. “Everything was a blur. I couldn’t understand it.”

It’s understandable why. Data from Chastain’s car revealed that his top speed through Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap was 50 mph faster than the normal lap.

Cole Custerwho was following Chastain, told NBC Sports that he initially thought the No. 1 Chevrolet had lost its brakes until he realized what Chastain was doing.

“That was crazy,” Custer said. “He has balls. That was cool.”

Chastain’s car seemed to be moving at cartoon speed compared to the rest of the field.

He passed five cars between Turn 3 and the finish line to gain enough points to beat Hamlin for the race opportunity Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Martinsville winner Christopher Bell for the championship on Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

“How did that work?” Chastain later spoke about her move.

However, it did set the fastest lap ever run by a stock car at Martinsville Speedway, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The track record was 18.954 seconds. Chastain’s final lap was 18.845 seconds.

Chastain said he had never tried anything like it in a car before. He said he first saw such a move more than 15 years ago in a video game.

“My brother Chad used to beat me doing it,” Chastain said.

“It flashed in my head again at the white flag (curd). … If it breaks, OK, we’re not going to make it. It might not work, but I’ll try.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the move.

Kyle Larsonwho attempted a similar move at Darlington last year, denied Chastain’s actions on Sunday.

“It’s just a bad look,” Larson said. “I’m embarrassed to have done that at Darlington. Maybe if I hadn’t done it last year, people wouldn’t have thought of it, so I’m embarrassed and glad I didn’t win that way (at Darlington). It’s not just good looks. Not a good look. … It’s shameful.”

Larson went on to say, “If you think (Chastain’s move is fair), why would you think it’s fair?”

Logano enjoyed Chastain’s move, but also suggested the sport shouldn’t see such a bold stunt again, citing safety concerns.

“No matter how spectacular it is, no matter how it works, the problem is that the box is open now, isn’t it?” Logano said. “Now every Xfinity race, every truck race, every Cup race, no matter the track, this wall drive is going to be a game. This is not good. This is not good.

“I mean, it was great, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There is no rule against it. There has to be a rule against this because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall to get to the checkered flag.”

Logano suggested the rule must be in place before this weekend’s truck, Xfinity and Cup championship races.

A NASCAR spokesman said Sunday night that Chastain’s move was “within the rules and (officials) will discuss any drivers’ concerns this week.”

Hamlin, eliminated by Chastain’s attack, admitted his team’s pitting was a factor in him not making it to the title race. However, losing to such a move by a competitor.

“It’s funny,” Hamlin said, “but not for me. … We lost on a move that is fair play.”

Chase Briscoe admits that “I think we all thought about it” to do what Chastain did, but didn’t.

Briscoe was the first car Chastain passed. Then Bubba WallaceLogano, 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 have done it, but is it fair to the (five) guys he passed? Probably not. But all (the five) of us could have done the same thing.”

Instead, Chastain did.

But after watching the video of his daring move?

“I can’t believe I’m in there,” he said.

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