Will one of the four drivers racing for the title attempt to mimic Ross Chastain’s wall-riding Martinsville move in an attempt to capture the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship? Don’t rule it out completely. But don’t count on it either.
The absurd effectiveness of Chastain’s maneuver has made many in and around NASCAR wonder if what he did at the half-mile track could also be executed at the one-mile Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. By holding the throttle wide open and riding the wall in Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, Chastain was nearly 2 seconds faster than every other driver on track and made up five positions in less than a quarter mile.
Chastain is one of the four racing for the championship in NASCAR’s winner-take-all race and he didn’t seem inclined to try it again. He said that he didn’t think riding the wall would be the way to win the race at Phoenix.
"The right front suspension broke, the right front upper control arm is broken, but I was able to get across the line before I could feel it,” Chastain said about what happened at Martinsville. “ … Why it worked, I don't know. I have no ideas or plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant.”
Christopher Bell won that race at Martinsville to make the final four and said he believed that any of the four title-contending drivers would do whatever they have to do to win the championship.
"If NASCAR does not put a rule in place or police wall riding, I think that that will open up a huge, huge can of worms,” Bell said. “I think that all four of us will do whatever it takes to win a championship.”
NASCAR said this week that it had no plans to create a rule to prevent a Chastain copycat ahead of this week but would look at its options in the offseason. That means the door is open for a driver in one of NASCAR’s three series racing at Phoenix this weekend to legally try the move and see if it works just as well at another track.
If a driver does ride the wall in Turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix to the finish line, it’s almost certain that he won’t get the widespread attention Chastain has received this week even if it's for a Cup Series title. Part of the move’s greatness was its novelty. No one had tried it before because it was something that didn’t seem to make sense until it was actually attempted.
Chase Elliott said Thursday that he saw Chastain’s move “kind of embarrassing in some ways just from an integrity standpoint” for the racing quality in NASCAR. And while Elliott said he had respect and admiration for what Chastain pulled off, he also questioned whether it crossed the delicate line that NASCAR tries to balance between sports and entertainment.
“I think the line of entertainment and integrity, that's a really difficult one to balance,” Elliott said. “When retweets and likes and favorites on all the stuff they've gotten this week [of the clip of Chastain’s move], unfortunately I think that has probably driven it a little bit too much.”
Joey Logano also feels the same way about Chastain’s move. He and Elliott are each racing for their second Cup Series title on Sunday. Logano spoke of his big-picture concerns about what happened at Martinsville earlier in the week and reiterated them again on Thursday.
“it was cool, it was a neat move,” Logano said. “We all talked about doing it before he actually did it. He had a good reason for doing it. He's rewarded for being in the championship. That's fine, all well and good. The next time it happens it's not as cool. The next time, the next time. ...All of a sudden now a leader has to put himself in the fence to finish first. At that point it doesn't look really right.”