Crash to Win: NASCAR Was Genuinely Exciting On Sunday

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nascar was genuinely exciting on sunday

You probably missed it, but one of the most exciting moments in modern motorsport occurred over the weekend. Ross Chastain needed to make up five positions on the last lap of the Xfinity 500 if he wanted to make it to the playoffs and opted to throw his car into the outside wall of Martinsville Speedway, remembering that he’d seen that strategy work in old video games. The resulting moment is genuinely surreal to watch, primarily because it worked so well.

The Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet barely slows down after contacting the wall and then continues on at speeds the rest of the pack is incapable of running on the half-mile track. Chastain actually comes around so quickly that he goes from tenth to fifth place in the blink of an eye and briefly makes contact with some of the front runners as they all cross the finish line.

If you’ve ever played a racing video game, especially one before the damage physics became more realistic, you know that the ideal cheater strategy is to slingshot your vehicle around the outside of every corner that’ll have you riding the wall. Gravel traps and run-off areas are no good. You need the firm embrace that only a hard boundary can provide, allowing you to bounce off the corner without having lost all that much speed.

But this is really only supposed to work in a simulated environment, making Chastain’s successful attempt all the more impressive. After the race, the driver even admitted that he literally took inspiration from games he played as a child and simply decided to go for it on the final lap.

“I played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube with [my brother] Chad growing up, and you can get away with it. I never knew if it would actually work. I mean, I did that when I was eight years old,” he told NBC Sports.

“I grabbed fifth gear, asked off of [Turn] 2 on the last lap if we needed it, and we did. I couldn’t tell who was leading. And I just made the choice, grabbed fifth gear down the back and fully committed. Once I got against the wall, I basically let go of the wheel, just hoping I didn’t catch the Turn 4 access gate or something crazy. But I was willing to do it.”

While intentionally wrecking your vehicle through a turn has got to be one of the most unsafe maneuvers I’ve ever witnessed in stock car racing, you can’t really argue with the results. The No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet managed to fly around the other cars and made up five positions in that final lap – getting Chastain into the final round of the NASCAR playoffs.

He’ll be competing in the NASCAR Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway next Sunday. But something tells me officials will probably try and discourage him from attempting the video-game-inspired stunt, should another opportunity arise. Then again, the glory days of NASCAR seem to be all about foggy rules and healthy levels of contact. Giving drivers the freedom to destroy themselves (and each other) may result in a much-needed ratings boost.

[Images: NASCAR]

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2 of 15 comments
  • Daaaaammmmnnn .. I both admire the move and the physics behind it .. but cringe at the comment on hitting a gate and taking out half the field and not caring about it

  • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on Nov 01, 2022

    Fantastic one time, can't be repeated. Unfortunately this pretty much requires a rule that you have to give back any places gained while in contact with the wall.

    • Art  Vandelay Art Vandelay on Nov 02, 2022

      I don't know. Go that route if you try to pass on the outside on the final lap the dude on the inside is just going to put you into the wall Russ Wheeler Days of Thunder style. At some point you have to let them race. The only sure fire way to stop this would be to run open wheel cars. In Indy or F1 this would end your day

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  • JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these cars. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
  • Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.
  • Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
  • EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.