Ross Chastain needed to make up two positions on the final lap at Martinsville to advance to the playoff Championship Four, and he was deep in a hole.
On the final lap, Chastain put his right foot to the floor, moved to the outside against the wall, and rode the wall at amazing speed.
Similar moves had been tried occasionally over the course of the sport’s 75 years, but none had been as dramatic—and as successful.
Some called it one of the best racing moves in NASCAR history. Some said the driver stepped far over the line, that the move was unprofessional.
Almost everyone was astonished by it.
Enter Ross Chastain, approaching the final lap in a playoff elimination race in October 2022 at Martinsville Speedway. He needed to make up two positions to advance to the playoff Championship Four, and he was deep in a hole. Suddenly, Chastain put his right foot to the floor, moved to the outside against the wall, and rode the wall at amazing speed, passing cars by the second as he smashed through the third and fourth turns like a charging bull, barely finishing high enough to advance.
Remarkably, Chastain’s final lap was faster than the Martinsville qualifying record.
The right side of his car was crunched, and the wall showed the results of Chastain’s bold move, but he was alive in the playoffs. Mission accomplished.
The buzz was electric. Christopher Bell won the race – a must-win for him to advance in the playoffs, but most of the post-race chatter was about Chastain and his dynamic and dangerous move to reach the final four.
Similar moves had been tried occasionally over the course of the sport’s 75 years, but none had been as dramatic—and as successful—as Chastain’s. He became an instant superstar, the replay of his move attracting millions of views on various media platforms. Formula 1 stars Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo chimed in with congratulations—and envy.
The move immediately prompted comparisons to racing video games. Other drivers talked of experimenting with it while playing video games.
Chastain made it happen in real life.
After the race, Chastain’s cell phone was overwhelmed with more than 1,000 texts.
The move became known as the “Hail Melon” in recognition of Chastain’s status as a member of a watermelon farming family and his decision to smash a watermelon after each race win.
“It’s almost immeasurable how awesome and how far that carried,” Chastain said. “I’m proud to be the one who did it. Being the first to do anything in this world in 2022 and definitely in this sport is almost impossible.”
Could the Martinsville move become a thing…a last-lap weapon to be used again by Chastain or other drivers?
“I hope not,” Chastain said. “I don’t want to do it again. I hope I never need to. Just beat them.”