Ross Chastain Embraced His Inner Gamer To Make Champ Four
By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
RIDGEWAY, VA – An unbelievable ‘video game’ style move netted Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing their first Championship Four appearance.
After a hard-fought battle with Denny Hamlin in the final 20 laps of the Xfinity 500, the No. 1 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 faded. Meanwhile Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Freight Direct Toyota Camry continued to move forward.
Sitting just two points below the cutline, Chastain needed to gain two positions as the he held the tiebreaker. The Alva, FL native took the white flag in 10th, battling with fellow NASCAR Playoffs drivers Chase Briscoe and Chase Elliott.
Entering Turn 3, Chastain pitted his car against the outside wall and pushed the throttle pedal to the floor. The 29-year-old zipped along the wall in a move reminiscent to those possible in ‘NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup,’ gaining five positions.
“Let’s not forget how unorthodox we (Trackhouse) are as a race team,” Chastain said.
THE MOVE THAT SENDS ROSS CHASTAIN TO THE #CHAMPIONSHIP4! pic.twitter.com/67Ku712XZf
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 30, 2022
Chastain took the checkered flag in fifth, securing a Championship Four spot for himself and Trackhouse Racing. The No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 did make the Owner Championship Four on a tiebreaker, beating the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet.
“We were in 9th in both stages and we’re going to run around 10th or 12th or at the end,” Chastain said. “That just wasn’t enough. That’s not what you need to do here in the Cup Series in the last race to transfer.
“Double checked off Turn 2 on the final lap. I heard, ‘yes, two spots,’ but it was garbled up. I knew that that must be what they meant and fully committed down the back, grabbed 5th gear and hands off the wheelonce I first hit the wall.”
The first time Chastain could remember a similar ‘wall-riding’ move was when he and his brother played NASCAR console games on Nintendo Gamecube at the fictitious ‘Dodge Raceway.’ However, he never practiced that move in the Chevrolet simulator.
“Played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the Gamecube,” Chastain explained. “I never knew if it actually worked. I did that when I was eight with my brother. I just grabbed fifth gear down the backstretch and was fully committed.”
Chastain also set a new lap record (track records are only recognized in qualifying) at Martinsville Speedway with the move. His 18.845 second lap was 0.053 seconds faster than the record Joey Logano set in qualifying in 2014. The 100.483 MPH lap was also over one second faster than the rest of the field.
One thing that Chastain hadn’t considered the crossover gate when he made the video game move. It wasn’t until halfway through the maneuver that he noticed the gate. Luckily the gate held up, keeping Chastain inside the track.
“I did (see the gate) halfway through the corner, and I had not thought about that,” Chastain admitted. I knew that it did not go through my mind as I’m bouncing off the wall, though I did see it when I was in the middle of the corner, but it was too late. It’s a testament to wall.”
Though the move is currently legal, NASCAR officials will discuss updates to the rulebook moving forward.
The journeyman driver qualified ninth. With the difficulty passing and a loose racecar, Chastain was stuck running between 10th and 15th. He finished both Stages in ninth and 10th, gaining just three points, keeping him within striking distance of Hamlin, who won both Stages.
The fifth-place finish was Chastain’s 14th this season and the 17th of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Now Chastain will compete for the opportunity to score his first championship in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 6 at 3:00 p.m. on NBC.
The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.