Ross Chastain spent some time Saturday with a damaged Trackhouse Racing car outside of Martinsville Speedway — a famous one — as he has been reliving the video game move he made at the track last fall that advanced him to the championship race and forced NASCAR to make a rule change.
“It’s over; can’t do it,” Chastain said. “This car will never be raced again. The piece of wall we got will never be ran into again. Just so many things about it are done.”
The car was on display at the Chevrolet exhibit in the fan midway. Chastain was eliminated from the postseason in the last round, so he will not need to make such a bold move Sunday. Not that he wants to do it again, or that anyone else in the field can try after NASCAR outlawed it during the offseason, citing safety concerns.
Last year, he drove straight into the Turn 3 wall and kept the car wide-open as he rode the wall to the finish line. It was a move that gained him five positions when he needed two points to advance in the Cup Series playoffs.
“I thought the wall was straight and actually when you turn into the corner if you look down the backstretch, it actually goes to the right just a little bit, a couple of inches,” Chastain said. “So when I made the first impact, I thought I was stopping the way it hit so hard. And I held on to the wheel for a little bit of time, the best I can remember and then I thought, ‘Just let go.’
“When I let go, my arms got pinned to the right…and at that point, I’m like, ‘Just don’t lift.’ All I focused on was making sure my foot didn’t come off the gas pedal and I felt like I was going faster than I ever went before.”
For as hard as Chastain hit the wall, how far he rode it, and how fast he was going, he and others were impressed with how well the No. 1 car held up. He had confidence in making the move because he had seen how well the Next Gen body had held up during crash damage all season.
“I had hit the wall a few times last year and noticed that the body panels went right back out,” he said. “We saw that in testing with guys wrecking; I wrecked at the Roval, and I hit driver’s side on the frontstretch wall and I thought the car was demolished and we were going home. In an hour and a half they had suspension on it and we went back out and made more laps.
“Now, I still never thought that I could do that. That wasn’t part of the process, but we did see throughout the season that guys were hitting the wall and the body was bouncing back out. Obviously that was a big part — that the body didn’t cave in and cut the tires; they’re not metal bodies. The wheels slid against the wall in a lot of ways. The sidewall is moved in, and the wheel was like a roller blade against it. I think that’s a big reason why it didn’t slow down more a couple of miles an hour.”
Chastain said about watching the video a year later: disbelief.
“I don’t believe what I’m watching, still, when I see it,” he said. “To come and stand by the car, touch the car, know everything that went into last year to get us to Martinsville, and then to be out (of the playoffs) and then get back in to go fight for a championship – the move was one thing — what it meant and the ripple effect and the wave it set off for Trackhouse to go fight for a championship was bigger than anything — just what that means for so many of us inside those four walls and our plans for the future.
“Touching this car, leaning up against it right now, having a helmet for one race – I’ve never worn a helmet for one weekend and then been done with it… I’ve always used them over and over again. This one will just be used this weekend and then go on the shelf and be something I can actually put in my house because I can’t fit a car up, or piece of wall.”
The car has lived at Trackhouse Racing and Chastain has seen it over the last year. At first, it was tucked away a bit in the shop but it’s recently been moved more toward the lobby and out in the open.
“It’s been in the shop, kind of tucked away for a while,” Chastain said. “We finally got the suspension and the wheels — the actual wheels — back on it. I guess most of the suspension stayed; it was just kind of hanging there. The right-front upper is broken and a lot of stuff is bent – the front and rear clip are bent, the best we can tell. But it’s been there, and then it finally got moved up to the front recently, up by the lobby. It’s been there; you see it.”
Martinsville Speedway cut out a piece of the Turn 4 wall earlier this year, bringing Chastain to the track to participate, but that’s still in Martinsville Speedway track president Clay Campbell’s possession.
“We haven’t taken ownership of that yet,” Chastain said. “We have to find a big enough space for it. That thing was massive. I don’t have any room for it right now in [North Carolina], and whether or not Justin gives us some space in the shop to put it, I’m not sure that’s in the plans either. I want them to be together, though, and I want it to be where people can see it, not locked away back at the farm. That’s not going to do any of us good.”