NASCAR will not be implementing a rule ahead of its championship race weekend to prevent a driver from trying the wall-riding move Ross Chastain deftly executed on the final lap at Martinsville.
Chastain drove his car straight into the Turns 3 and 4 wall on the final lap and held the throttle wide open to qualify for the Cup Series title race on Sunday. The move gained Chastain five positions and his lap time was nearly two seconds faster than race winner Christopher Bell. It was also the fastest Cup Series lap ever at Martinsville and entirely a product of Chastain using the wall as his guide.
After the race, some drivers mused if what Chastain did at Martinsville could be replicated at Phoenix — the site of this weekend’s title race — and other tracks on the schedule. And on Tuesday, NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell effectively gave drivers in NASCAR’s top three series the green light to copycat Chastain if they want to try.
“Certainly within the rules, what he did, and was able to execute it,” O’Donnell said Tuesday on SiriusXM 90. “As with anything you see of the first time, you have to take a look. We’ve had a number of discussions internally about that move and all the what ifs but that’s within the rules and believe that’s where we’ll be for Phoenix as well and then something we can definitely evaluate in the offseason.”
💭 "It was a move that was within the bounds of the rulebook."
#NASCAR COO Steve O'Donnell told #TMDNASCAR that the video game move @RossChastain pulled was perfectly legal and that they "don't think it's right to adjust the rules" with one race left in 2022. pic.twitter.com/V2F8JREOCQ
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) November 1, 2022
It makes sense that NASCAR wouldn’t rush to ban Chastain’s move this week. Any rule would likely be hasty and NASCAR officials likely don’t have enough time to hash out various scenarios and possible loopholes. Any rule of this nature is best implemented over the offseason with plenty of deliberation.
But O’Donnell’s stated reasoning for not implementing a rule ahead of Phoenix doesn’t hold up well to basic scrutiny from anyone with a working knowledge of how quickly and frequently rules change in NASCAR’s three series.
“Looking at it, it was a move that was within the bounds of the rule book and really don’t think it’s right to adjust the rules when, for 35 points races we’ve been one way and then throw a wrinkle in it for the 36th,” O’Donnell said.
Adding a rule to prevent the replication of Chastain’s move at Phoenix wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a sanctioning body that has frequently made midseason changes when issues with the rules have come up. Just this year, NASCAR changed its in-race rules for damaged cars ahead of the playoffs.
And the 36th Cup Series race of the season is, by the nature of the playoffs, run on different terms than any other race during the postseason given its winner-take-all format. Plus different tracks have different rules. Drivers can run on the apron at tracks like Phoenix and Auto Club to gain time but they can’t do so at Daytona and Talladega. A temporary rule for Phoenix would hardly be a break in NASCAR precedent.