Skip to main content

Ross Chastain’s miracle last-lap move at Martinsville Speedway brought about nearly as much hand-wringing as it did admiration from the rest of the NASCAR industry. But the championship race this past Sunday at Phoenix Raceway should have alleviated most fears of it becoming a common move in the sport.

Chastain was two points shy of a berth in what would be his first Championship 4 on the final lap of the Round of 8 cutoff race at Martinsville. He was in 10th place on the backstretch and needed at least two positions to catch Denny Hamlin, who was running fifth in the race, for the final transfer spot.

While the rest of the field hit the brakes to get through the final corner, Chastain shifted into fifth gear and stood on the accelerator. His No. 1 car then rode the outside wall all the way back around to the finish line. He passed five cars with the move and clinched his spot in the Championship 4 with one of the more dramatic moments in the sport’s history.

Several drivers decried Chastain’s Martinsville last-lap move

Not everybody appreciated the incredible nature of what Chastain accomplished, however.

“I was a bit, I don’t know, embarrassed that I did it because that was pretty embarrassing, honestly,” Kyle Larson said after the race. “I think that’s not a good look for our sport at all. I don’t know what you guys think, you probably think it’s cool. But I think it’s pretty embarrassing.”

Other drivers echoed that sentiment, and suddenly the reverence for what Chastain did turned into a debate about whether or not the sanctioning body should create a rule to prevent others from trying a similar move in future races.

“I think all of us have thought about [doing] that, but none of us have ever been brave enough to try it,” Chase Briscoe said in his postrace interview. “I’m very curious to see what kind of hole that opens up.”

Discussion about the possibility that a similar move would work at the flat, 1.0-mile Phoenix track popped up, as well, after the Martinsville event. NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell shot down the notion of changing the rules two days later in an interview on Sirius XM Radio, at least for the championship race at Phoenix.

“[It was] certainly within the rules … As with anything you see for the first time, you’ve got to take a look,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve had a number of discussions internally about that move and all the what-ifs.

“But at this point in looking at it, it was a move that was within the rulebook, and really don’t think it’s right to adjust the rules when, for 35 races, we’ve been one way and throw a wrinkle in for the 36th.”

Drivers in each championship race at Phoenix were in position to try a similar move

Ross Chastain during qualifying for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500
Ross Chastain | Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

It turns out all three championship races last weekend at Phoenix provided title contenders a chance to replicate the Chastain move.

Ben Rhodes and Chandler Smith were running second and third, respectively, behind Zane Smith on the final lap Friday of the Camping World Truck Series race, but neither chose to stick their trucks in the wall. They instead raced eventual-winner Smith on the traditional low line through the final corner.

Noah Gragson was in a similar position at the end of the Xfinity Series race Saturday. He was second to eventual winner Ty Gibbs on the final lap and did not take his car up for a ride along the wall, although he said later it crossed his mind.

Even Chastain himself had an opportunity to replicate his now-famous move from Martinsville. He was in third place on the final lap and needed to pass both the leader and eventual-champion Joey Logano, along with Ryan Blaney, to win the title. Instead of speeding toward the outside wall, Chastain followed the leaders low through the final turn.

“I thought that the Martinsville scenario was the perfect scenario for it, and my gut told me to do it at Martinsville, and my gut told me not to do it here,” Chastain said in his postrace press conference. “Look, it’s scary as heck to commit to that and to put your car and your body through that. That was the longest wreck of my life. It was a successful wreck for a long time through the corner.”

Part of the reluctance from drivers to ride the wall on the final lap is the outside wall juts out a few feet at the end of the backstretch, whereas the wall maintains a straight line into the corner at Martinsville.

Either way, the high level of concern from parts of the industry that Chastain’s Martinsville move would change the end of NASCAR races forever was unfounded, at least for this year.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.