The Dangerous Real-Life NASCAR Move Inspired By A Video Game

Let's be honest: video games have taught us all a lot. For instance, what happens if you punch a brick from below? Duh, a magic mushroom pops out that doubles your height. If you startle a guard? An exclamation point pops up over his head. And if you crash a car? There's no insurance reports to fill out, car repairs, medical bills because of a broken leg that will haunt you with nagging pain until death — none of that. If you crash a car, you just go back to the beginning of the track. Facts.

Well, one NASCAR driver — Ross Chastain — definitely learned plenty from racing games back in the day. During the final lap of the recent NASCAR XFinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, he pulled off a move so bananas, so bonkers, that it's quite literally never been seen outside of a video game. He didn't brake going into turn three, as Motorsport explains; instead, he accelerated. He aimed himself right at the wall, upshifted into fifth gear, and scraped at blazing speeds along the wall's concrete-reinforced SAFER barrier straight from 10th to 5th place. In a matter of seconds, Denny Hamlin lost the 5th place position, and now Chastain moves on from the playoffs to the championship. 

And what inspired such a blindly daring, doubtfully sane, move? As Chastain himself explains in a post-game interview on Twitter, "I played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube which I had growing up."

A split-second, last-minute decision

To be fair, if Chastain hadn't pulled off such a feat we'd be having a very different conversation. As Motorsport says, Kyle Larson tried a similar move in 2021 to outpace Denny Hamlin at Darlington's Southern 500. Larson called the attempt "embarrassing," and says he shouldn't have tried it. In fact, judging by comments, plenty of fans aren't impressed by Chastain, and consider his move anything from dumb to unsportsmanlike to straight-up cheating. So will NASCAR ban such wild Hail Marys in the future? At the very least, racer Joey Logano believes that crews will be working overtime to investigate similar exploits at future tracks.

For now, we can sit back and watch the first-person dash cam footage from Chastain's maneuver on Twitter's NASCAR account. The footage is full of chips of flying metal, horrific sheering noises, and keeps cutting in and out, presumably because the camera's feed nearly broke. It's mad enough to make you wonder what, if anything, Chastain was thinking. Chastain said (via Motorsport), "I never thought about it. Our prep this week, it never crossed my mind. I've done a lot of sim work this week, a lot of stuff, laps here virtually. Never once did it cross my mind to ever try it." He continued, "My brain could not comprehend, my bandwidth was shot," and, "I didn't know how it would all work out. I didn't know if the physics would work to make it around the corner, but it did."

The physics of it all

While it's easy to just marvel at Chastain's move, or watch it from a different, third-person perspective on Twitter, some folks are wondering how the whole thing is physically possible. What about the increased friction of Chastain's car gliding along the wall, for instance? Wouldn't that have slowed him down? And why didn't he just crash or spin out? Chastain's got the quick answer for this on Motorsport: "My foot stayed down. I committed to the wall early. It didn't slow down, so it worked." He was going 50 mph faster than on a usual lap, which when combined with the gentle curvature of the wall more or less propelled him forward past other cars. Kotaku also reports that Chastain "basically let go of the wheel" when he got in contact with the wall.

Others have taken up the question by turning to Chastain's inspiration: video games. Racer Chase Briscoe pokes fun on Twitter by recording himself scraping a virtual car along the wall of a game track before spinning out. Pablo López, meanwhile, uses the ultra-realistic racing simulator iRacing to produce a nearly identical blow-by-blow of Chastain's move, also to be found on Twitter.

For those interested in feeling inspired by Chastain's personal gaming inspiration, NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube, there's gameplay available on YouTube. It might not prepare you to bash into a real-life NASCAR wall, but at the very least you can crash as much as you like without any consequences whatsoever.