Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Analysis
NASCAR Cup Martinsville II

One year later: Revisiting the Ross Chastain NASCAR wall-ride

Next Monday will mark the one-year anniversary of Ross Chastain's 'Hail Melon' NASCAR manoeuvre, a moment that stunned audiences and left even his fellow drivers speechless.

It was the penultimate race of the 2022 season. Chastain was facing certain elimination from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Christopher Bell was moments away from winning his way into the Championship 4. Joey Logano had already locked himself in with a victory a couple weeks prior, while Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin currently held the final two transfer spots.

Chastain's maiden year with the fledgling Trackhouse Racing Team had been an incredible one, winning twice and leading the entire field in top-fives and top-tens.

However, he had also made a lot of enemies along the way, most notably in Hamlin. The two drivers had several run-ins, and the elimination race at Martinsville was no different. They rubbed fenders and slammed doors while battling for the chance to advance into the championship race.

It looked as though Hamlin was set to prevail with Chastain two points out at the white flag. There was no way he could possibly gain more positions on his own. His title bid was over. But the eighth-generation Florida watermelon farmer would not be denied. What followed was one of, if not the most unbelievable pass in the history of NASCAR. The 'Martinsville Miracle' as some have called it, or better known simply as the 'Hail Melon.' 

As the pack slammed on the brakes, downshifting as they filed into the tight Turns 3 and 4 of the half-mile short track, Chastain upshifted instead. He kept the pedal to the floor, the car against the outside wall, and suddenly no one cared about who won the race. There was a stunned silence, and then there were just cheers.

The No. 1 Chevrolet ripped around the outermost bounds of the race track, grinding against the wall and blistering past his astonished competitors. He lost hold of the wheel as he flew past five cars in total, drawing even with Hamlin at the line and eliminating his season-long rival from title contention.

His final lap shattered the Martinsville track record for a NASCAR stock car at 18.845s, running nearly a full second faster than that weekend's pole speed set by Kyle Larson.

The video blew up, transcending the motorsports world entirely and reaching mainstream news. It was viewed over 100 million times across social media. Even Formula 1 World Champions took notice.

Fernando Alonso praised the move, saying: "This is the best thing of 2022 in motor racing! We all did this on video games with damage disabled. Never thought this could become reality."

He was far from the only one, with drivers from every corner of the racing world reacting to the wall-ride with shock and amazement. Two-time IndyCar champion Will Power said: "That's one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time."

But of course, there were detractors as well. One of the louder voices came from a fellow Cup driver with Larson believing it to be "embarrassing" and "not a good look for our sport." But the overwhelming reaction remained positive.

Even NASCAR Hall of Famers were baffled with Mark Martin referring to the move as "cold-blooded" and Jeff Gordon saying that it was "pretty incredible."

Where did the thought to do that even come from? Chastain claimed that he had learned the move from NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube, which he played with his brother Chad as a kid. 

As fascinating as it was, there was still an issue of safety that needed to be addressed. What if it didn't work? And with how much of an advantage the move provided, what happens next time the Cup Series visits Martinsville?

Banning the move

Chastain had just opened Pandora's Box, and NASCAR was faced with the difficult decision of whether to close it or not. With the championship finale just days away, they chose not to take any action ... yet.

Logano would ultimately win the title, 235ft ahead of a charging Chastain at Phoenix Raceway. There was no sequel to the wall-ride, and no other tricks up his sleeve. Ahead of the 2023 season, NASCAR finally decided to ban the wall-ride. Further solidifying the legendary move, it could now never happen again. 

"To ensure that our competitors do not employ strategies that may compromise the safety of themselves, other competitors or fans, NASCAR will issue a time penalty to any vehicle that attempts an unsafe maneuver such as the one performed at Martinsville," declared the sanctioning body.

Trackhouse Racing team co-owner Justin Marks decided to preserve the now famous car so fans could visit it for years to come. The track itself went a step further. Martinsville Speedway, with help from Chastain himself, removed a section of the wall that was still scarred from its close encounter with the side of the No. 1 Chevrolet.

It was arguably the greatest pass in NASCAR history. So iconic that a team retired a race car and a track cut out a section of its own wall in honour of it. The diecast that was later made became Lionel Racing's top-selling diecast for 2022.

A year later, NASCAR returns to Martinsville for yet another elimination race. Six drivers are vying for the two remaining spots. Chastain is not among them, as he was eliminated from the 2023 playoffs a couple weeks ago. 

We may see some desperate moves by those on the cusp of being knocked out of title contention, but how could anything ever top what we saw one year ago? The truth is that nothing probably can.

Chastain will commemorate the move with a special helmet design this weekend. Looking back on it, he said: "It's wild to think that it has been one year since the wall ride. Obviously, it was huge for my team because we got a chance to run for the championship in Phoenix but it ended up being a huge moment for our sport. It's wild how many people outside of racing saw it and the amount of attention it got. That's great though. We brought more eyes to the sport of NASCAR and hopefully gained some new fans."

 

Chastain is a talented racer who may very well go on to have a Hall of Fame career. He could win multiple championships and many more races, but even he knows that the move he made on the final lap of that Martinsville race will supersede it all in the end. That's just a fact. 

NASCAR has had several historic moments that have come to define its 75 years, moments that exist outside of time in a way. A vague mention or a single line from the broadcast and all will know exactly what you're talking about. They're just that memorable. 

"There's a fight ... The tempers overflowing. They're angry. They know they have lost."

"And Earnhardt's still got the lead! Incredible!"

"Twenty years of trying. Twenty years of frustration..."

"Have you ever? No I never!"

"Take a look at what he did! I have never seen anything like that before in my life." 

Chastain singlehandedly elevated himself to the level of NASCAR legend, regardless of whatever else he accomplishes during his career, simply because in that moment with the odds stacked against him, he refused to accept defeat. He did not lift, and so we will take a look at what he did, every single year at Martinsville for likely the rest of our lives.

And how could we not? We're never going to see anything else like it ever again.

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article NASCAR Cup Homestead: Bell secures title shot with dramatic victory
Next article NASCAR Cup Martinsville: Blaney advances into title race with win

Top Comments

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe