NASCAR Bans Ross Chastain’s Epic Wall Ride Pass
Ross Chastain’s video game-inspired maneuver is now officially too cool for the rules.
After Ross Chastain's wild move at Martinsville last year, NASCAR has made it clear that any drivers attempting wacky wall-riding passes will be penalized in future.
The edict was handed down as a part of NASCAR's rules update for the 2023 season. The series saw no need to introduce specific new language to cover wall-riding passes. Instead, NASCAR has indicated that such moves will be penalized under existing safety rules.
The relevant section is rule 10.5.2.6.A. This states that “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM (NASCAR Event Management). Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
In future, NASCAR officials will issue time penalties to "any vehicle that attempts an unsafe maneuver like Chastain's". Such passes will thus be fruitless in future, as any positions gained by such a maneuver will be duly lost. "We will penalize for that act going forward," said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. "Basically, what it would be is a lap or time penalty at the end of the race, so that move at Martinsville would be a penalty."
At the time, NASCAR stated the wall-riding pass was "within the bounds of the rulebook," and indicated it wouldn't create a rule to ban the move in the final stages of the 2022 season. However, that changed for 2023. Facing the prospect of farcical scenes with cars slamming into walls at the end of races, and the concurrent safety concerns, NASCAR felt the need to act, albeit by relying on its existing rules.
Chastain's pass at Martinsville saw him ride his car along the wall at full throttle, gaining five positions in the final dash to the line. The pass was a Hail Mary—a last-ditch attempt at staying in contention for the championship. The move was quickly nicknamed the "Hail Melon" pass after Chastain's family heritage as an eighth-generation watermelon farmer.
If the Hail Melon looked like something straight out of a video game, that's because it kind of was. Immediately after the race, Chastain admitted he'd picked up the idea from gaming in his youth. "Played a lot of NASCAR 05 on the Gamecube with [brother] Chad growing up," said Chastain, adding "I never knew if it would actually work. I did that when I was 8 years old."
Chastain himself later stated he wouldn't repeat the performance. "I have no ideas or plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant,” Chastain told media at the Championship 4 event.
Chastian's pass was creative, unique and highly successful. It could have gone a lot differently, though, and if the wall ride became a trend, it's likely other drivers would have fared much worse in future. Essentially, it's wrecking on purpose, and that rarely ends well. Now that it's officially unacceptable, the Hail Melon will go down in history as a legendary piece of racecraft that was too cool for the rules.
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