Ross Chastain Driver Of The Worldwide Express Advent Health News Photo 1667663374

NASCAR’s Ross Chastain Talks Us through His ‘Hail Melon’ Pass

  • If you didn’t watch the replay of Ross Chastain’s final lap at Martinsville Speedway at least twice last week, you might be the only one.
  • We interviewed the NASCAR driver ahead of this weekend’s championship run-off and let him talk about what it was like to make such a bold move, and what he was thinking before, during and after.
  • Chastain will square off against Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 6, at 3:00 PM ET. We’d look if we were you.

Even if you don’t know NASCAR from the Nasdaq, you saw Ross Chastain make history last week at the 2022 Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

The driver of the TrackHouse Racing #1 Camaro had to pass at least two cars in the final lap of the race. Unlike in a Fast and furious movie, you can’t just shift down 47 gears in a stock car, hit the NOS and blow past the competition.

Instead, Chastain took the car up the track and slid it into the wall for the final two turns of the race. Like a little brother thrown off a merry-go-round, Chastain’s car flew past the drivers taking the turn on the standard line, and he finished the race in fifth place, one spot ahead of his nearest rival, Denny Hamlin , who he knocked out of the championship run. It’s been nicknamed a “Hail Melon” pass (since Chastain’s nickname is Melon Man, a nod to his family’s long history of watermelon farming).

This weekend we’ll see if Chastain can turn that bold move into his first Cup championship, but even if he doesn’t lead the pack at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, he’s already raced his way into NASCAR history. We had a quick chat with Chastain about the move, and what he thought—or rather didn’t think.

C/D: Is that something that’s always been in your mind as a possible move, or did you just come up with it during that race last weekend?

RC: It popped into my head on the last lap when we took the white flag. My spotter, Brandon McReynolds, told me we needed two places and it was the white flag, last lap. The only option was to run the outside and I had a clear path to the corner and so I did. I didn’t give it any thought or do any practice or simulation work. I mean, the last time I really did that move would be playing Nintendo Game Cube with my brother. It was the 2005 game, so it’s pretty wild that it worked then and it’s working now.

So it’s not something you talk about over beer, like, “Wouldn’t that be crazy? Do you think it would work?”

No. I mean, look, we’ve seen other guys do it. I saw Carl Edwards do it years ago and I saw Kyle Larson try it, and I saw it from the driver’s seat at Darlington last year. He was second and tried to pass Denny for the win. I watched those guys try it, but I never thought I would do it. I never thought I would be in an opportunity where it would work or be worth it, but transferring to Phoenix was worth the risk and the reward is really sweet.

So, let’s talk through it. . .

Okay, so we talk through it You’re in the car, you see the white flag, you talk to the spotter and physically what do you do? What do you think? You don’t have much time to make this decision, it all happens very quickly.

Top speed at Martinsville is usually 105, maybe 110 [in the straights]. The entire course is half a mile long. So I was a little over a quarter of a mile away from where I decided to do it. It just popped into my head and then I got less than an eighth of a mile on the back stretch from, I don’t know, somewhere around 75 miles an hour to the normal 105. And then at that point where I normally would climb I dropped back to 75 I grabbed another gear to fifth and went 130 and hit the wall and it wouldn’t slow down. This all happened in the span of about 10 seconds, maybe 12 seconds from when it first popped into my head to when I grabbed fifth gear and kept going instead of slowing down.

nascar cup series xfinity 500

Stacy Revere|Getty Images

How did it feel? Could you say how fast you were driving? Did it feel radically different?

It did. Before I even hit the wall I realized I was moving fast and then I hit the wall and it’s not fun. I mean the walls and the cars were built to protect us, but they don’t like hitting each other. So, that’s something I don’t really ever want to experience again. There’s a lot of talk right now about, “Where else will we do it? Will everyone do it?” I can speak from experience, I never want to do it again. But yes, the sensation of speed was high before I hit the wall. Once I got to the wall, I realized I wasn’t slowing down, which is a good thing. I was very lucky and then I got about halfway around the corner, all the while the thing was violently hitting the wall, and I know I was still going at a pretty good speed, but I couldn’t see anything.

Were you doing anything in the car at the time, or just holding on?

[Coming up to the last turn] I remembered that the turn four crossover gate is there for the semi-haulers to get in and out of and I’m about to hit it with the side of the car. So, I took my hands off the wheel and the wheel was shaking violently and I just stayed on the gas and as soon as I felt it hit it immediately pushed me onto the wheel and then I knew I was no longer hard against the wall not. , I grabbed the wheel and held it high over the line, trying not to crash anyone else.

Was anyone mad at you afterwards?

I don’t think so [Denny Hamlin’s] glad that it happened, but I don’t think he is . . . Anyway, he was very angry with me earlier in the year.

What kind of damage was done to the car? Did you get hurt at all?

It is going well with me. Everything is fine here, but the car hurts. All the suspension on the right side is either bent or broken. The right front upper control arm is broken, but we haven’t actually taken the car apart to really see. It finished the race and it is at TrackHouse near the lobby on display for fans and people to come and watch it.

Do you think it will go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?

I do not know. They asked. It’s up to Justin and Pitbull [Justin Marks and Armando Christian “Pitbull” Perez, owners of the TrackHouse Entertainment Group team]. They can decide, it’s their car. I’m definitely all for keeping it as a small token of history. But the thing is we only have seven cars in total to work with. We will be racing the same cars again next year, so we may have to race this again.

There’s so much concern that we’ll see it tried all the time, but it sounds like it’s really a last lap Hail Mary, not something we’re going to see a lot of because you’re just going to wreck a car.

Right. Yes. As soon as I got on the road, it was obvious that something was broken. The brakes are gone. The brakes don’t work. So that was one corner and that was it.

“Wait a minute, [That] I’m old”

Did you absorb how radical this move was?

I do not think so. I mean, no, I didn’t. We didn’t physically celebrate together right after the race because we didn’t actually win the race, we still only finished fifth and eventually fourth. I must have watched the video 15 times. Watch it, play it again, watch it. To physically, in my brain, try to grasp what I’m looking at and then also say, “Wait a minute, the guy in the car doing that wild move is me.”

Look, if I wasn’t driving these race cars on Sunday, I’d be farming with my family and then watching the race on the weekend. I am a fan of this sport and always have been and always will be. The fact that I can do this and do something that has never been done before is really meaningful to me. So now we go to Phoenix and fight for a championship with TrackHouse. To be the one, as I watch the video, to be the one to do that is amazing. I really can’t fathom it.

Watch Chastain square off against Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 6, at 3:00 PM ET.

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