Stock car driver Ross Chastain on Sunday pulled off a desperate, slingshot pass of five cars on the last lap, rocketing from 10th place to 5th in the Xfinity 500 and barely staying alive in NASCAR’s elimination playoff series. Chastain later told pit reporters that the move came straight from his childhood Nintendo GameCube.
Chastain’s pass is called a “wall ride.” Basically, the field approaches a corner and everyone slows down to take it, except for one extremely motivated jackass who deliberately rides his car up into the wall, and uses that to brake and corner his vehicle while he slingshots around the more sensible drivers. This view from the stands gives you a better idea of what that looks like. Note the gobsmacked crowd reaction.
“I have never seen anything like that before in my life!” one of NBC’s commentators gasped on the live telecast.
It’s important to note this happened at Martinsville, Virginia which is NASCAR’s shortest track and whose nicknames — “The Paperclip” and “Half Mile of Mayhem” — speak to the necessity of such white-knuckle gambles to get a result there. You can’t really do what Chastain did at a two-mile superspeedway, in other words, simply because the corners are too long and the cars carry a lot more speed into them.
Chastain told NBC that “I just hoped I didn’t catch the turn four access gate” — that is, slam into a concrete divider while going flat out. “But I was willing to do it,” Chastain said. He said he “played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on GameCube” with his brother, Chad; they would have been 11 and 6 years old, respectively, when that game launched.
This is not to say the wall ride always works out in video games. Chase Briscoe, one of the drivers mowed down by Chastain’s daring move, drily noted on social media that video game drivers can very easily catch a seam or stray chunk of wall geometry and wipe out.
But when it does work, the wall ride is so devastating that it will get you banned on serious racing platforms like iRacing, where driver behavior is very closely monitored and moderated. Briscoe said a wall ride on iRacing about 10 years ago earned him a time out. “It for sure works on there,” he said.
Stock car racers try a lot of dangerous stuff, and so far as we know NASCAR hasn’t penalized or sanctioned Chastain for his ingenuity here. So we’ll demur on whether this stunt is unfair or actually, seriously, endangers others in the field. We do know it is eye-goggling to see a professional driver attempt something that is straight out of a video game, where in the end no one gets hurt, no one cares what happens to the car, and you can always rage-quit or restart if it doesn’t work out.
Chastain did not have those options. Now he’s got one of the last four berths in next weekend’s season-ending NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.