NASCAR Cup Series

Ross Chastain wallrides to Championship Four as Christopher Bell wins Martinsville

4 Mins read
Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As Christopher Bell took the checkered flag to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 closer at Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin was cruising to a fifth-place finish that would have placed two Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the Championship Round.

That was when Ross Chastain decided to pretend he’s a superman. Instead of simply braking for the sharp final two corners and settling for tenth to miss out on the final round, Chastain continued at full speed and brushed the outside wall. Despite sacrificing his #1 car’s right side, he rode the wall and blew by five other cars before stealing fifth and the final Championship Four slot from Hamlin.

The move, which shaved off so many seconds that the lap time of 18.845 was the Martinsville track record, quickly set the racing world on fire as many compared it to a video game strategy. Indeed, Chastain recalled in his post-race press conference that his younger brother Chad won a round of NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup on the Nintendo GameCube with the tactic at the fictional Dodge Raceway Stadium.

“I never thought about [the move]. Our prep this week, it never crossed my mind,” said Chastain. “I’ve done a lot of sim work this week, a lot of iRacing, a lot of stuff, laps here virtually. Never once did it cross my mind or ever try it. I want to make that clear. The last time would have been a long time ago before I was even thinking about being a NASCAR driver.

“It flashed back in my head on the white flag, and I double-checked off of (turn) two. Through one and two, I thought, ‘I think we need two spots.’ They said, ‘Yes. If it wrecks, okay, we don’t make it. It might not work, but I’ll try it.’ That’s a motto that some buddies and I have back home. We live by ‘Why not?’ To apply that to the Cup Series in this scenario, there are rules. There are a lot of rules out here.

“I didn’t know how it would all work out. I didn’t know if the physics would work to make it around the corner, but it did. I’m sure glad it did.”

Others were not as impressed, expressing worry that it would lead to others attempting it despite the obvious risks from hitting the wall. Pole winner Kyle Larson, while acknowledging he had done the same before, called it “not a good look for our sport at all. I don’t know what you guys think, you probably think it’s cool, but I think it’s embarrassing.”

Joey Logano, who locked himself into the Championship Round via his Las Vegas win, quipped that everyone “did it in the video game” and pondered “how many races I could have won here by doing that,” but added “wall riding is going to be a play” regardless of track. Although NASCAR stated the move is legal under the rulebook, Logano proposed detering future copypcats by penalising drivers who gain a position while against the wall.

“There needs to be a rule against this one because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall coming to the checkered flag,” Logano continued. “I don’t know if it’s the safest thing for the driver or the fans when you have a car right up at the wall hauling the mail like that. What if that fence, gate, wasn’t closed all the way? What if it was bent and caught his car? That’s a big risk that Ross was willing to take. God bless him, that’s awesome.”

Somewhat lost in the Chastain hoopla was Bell’s victory after passing Chase Briscoe with five laps remaining. It is Bell’s third win of 2022 and first on a short track. He had entered Martinsville below the cut line and needed to win to advance; incidentally, he faced the same situation at the Round of 12 but won its finale at the Charlotte Roval to advance.

“It’s just been a roller coaster of emotions for sure. I think I’ve been praying offseason for two out of the last four weeks, now I’m ready to race again,” Bell remarked. “The Round of 12 was extremely disheartening because I felt like the Round of 8 was going to be really good for us, and that would have led to a possible championship run. But then when we got out of Texas with a DNF, Talladega sucked, just being so down.

“The team behind me, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, they still performed to their highest level. I feel like whenever I get in the car, put my helmet on, I try and do as good of a job as I can of not letting anything bother me.

“No matter what’s going on behind the scenes, whenever you get in the car, you can’t let that bother you. They gave me a great race car today, the fastest car today. At the Charlotte road course when we needed to win, it worked out for us.”

Chase Elliott finished tenth to also qualify for the final round on points. Elliott and Logano are both seeking their second Cup championships.

Chastain’s run after getting off the wall was slightly hindered by Brad Keselowski in front of him, forcing him to slow down and end up in a closer drag race to the finish with Hamlin. Ironically, Keselowski failed post-race inspection as his car did not meet the minimum weight requirement and was disqualified, respectively promoting Chastain and Hamlin to fourth and fifth.

Race results

12020Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota500Running
215Kyle Larson^Hendrick MotorsportsChevrolet500Running
3412Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord500Running
491Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet500Running
51111Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota500Running
61222Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord500Running
72524William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet500Running
82445Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota500Running
9314Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord500Running
1029Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet500Running
111021Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord500Running
12799Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet500Running
131938Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord500Running
14541Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord500Running
151510Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord500Running
1684Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord500Running
171334Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord500Running
182343Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet498Running
192623Ty Gibbs*23XI RacingToyota498Running
202719Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota498Running
21147Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet498Running
223147Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet498Running
232116A.J. Allmendinger*Kaulig RacingChevrolet498Running
242217Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord497Running
251748Noah Gragson*Hendrick MotorsportsChevrolet497Running
26302Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord497Running
272931Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet497Running
283651Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord495Running
291818Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota494Running
303515J.J. Yeley*Rick Ware RacingFord488Running
313242Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet466Brakes
323377Landon Cassill*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet460Accident
33163Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet316Accident
343478B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord225Fire
35288Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet188Accident
3666Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord500Running (DSQ)
Bold – Currently in playoffs
^ – Competing in owner playoffs
Underline – Eliminated from playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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