NASCAR: Ross Chastain’s Martinsville move illegal in 2023

Ross Chastain celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Truck Series auto race, Sunday, June 16, 2019, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Ross Chastain celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Truck Series auto race, Sunday, June 16, 2019, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


Last year’s moment of Martinsville magic won’t be replicated.

At NASCAR’s annual competition media briefing on Tuesday, the sanctioning body made clear that Ross Chastain’s “Hail Melon” — the move that featured Chastain ramming into the wall on the final lap and shifting into fifth gear and passing a handful of cars in the process to instantly catapult into the Championship 4 — would not be allowed under NASCAR’s safety rules in 2023.

“This is not new language (in the rulebook),” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s new senior vice president of competition, told reporters in the Research Development Center in Concord on Tuesday afternoon. “But basically, if there is an act that we feel compromises the safety of our competitors, officials, spectators — we’re going to take that seriously. And we will penalize for that act going forward.”

He added: “So that move in Martinsville would be a penalty in 2023.”

Sawyer clarified that using the wall to gain spots in the manner in which Chastain did would result in “a lap or time penalty at the end of the race.”

Chastain’s move was instantly etched into NASCAR lore. It notched a Top 10 spot on SportsCenter the next day. It made it onto T-shirts. Different videos of the move were viewed millions of times, capturing the imagination of the motorsports world and beyond.

But it was also instantly controversial. Multiple drivers after the race said the move was largely “not a good look” for the sport. Kyle Larson used the word “embarrassing.” Ryan Blaney posed the question, “What keeps anybody from doing that from now on, anywhere?”

Joey Logano, the Cup Series champion, acknowledged the guts and instinct it took to pull off a move like that — but even he immediately afterward weighed in on whether NASCAR should make a rule change to prevent this unprecedented move from happening again.

“I mean, I think it’s pretty easy: You can’t hit the wall and gain a position,” Logano said. “I think that’s a pretty simple way of looking at it. It’s kind of a dumbed-down version. If you hit the wall and you gain a spot, you should be at the tail end of the field.”

Sawyer said that NASCAR officials had internal discussions about what to do during championship weekend at Phoenix the following week, but they ultimately decided to officiate the championship Cup race as it had been officiated the previous 35 weeks.

But after looking at some data and evaluating what’s in the safest interest of those involved in NASCAR this offseason, NASCAR determined it best if the move was outlawed for the 2023 season.

The Cup Series kicks off with the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday in Los Angeles.

This story was originally published January 31, 2023 4:25 PM.

Alex Zietlow writes about NASCAR, Charlotte FC and the ways in which sports intersect with life in the Charlotte area for The Observer, where he has been a reporter since August 2022. Zietlow’s work has been honored by the N.C. and S.C. Press Associations, as well as the APSE, which awarded him with Top-10 finishes in the Beat Writing and Short Feature categories in its 2021 writing contest. He previously wrote for The Herald in Rock Hill from 2019-22.

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