By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Martinsville, Va. – Ross Chastain’s ‘Hail Melon’ was the NASCAR Cup Series pass equivalent to the shot heard around the world. On the one-year anniversary of the video game move, the Trackhouse Racing driver is still humbled by the catalyst of his super stardom.
For Chastain, simply watching a replay of the final lap, final corner wall ride in the 2022 running of the Xfinity 500 is unbelievable. Although the data confirms it happened, it doesn’t seem real to the Alva, FL native. However, the driver of the No. 1 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 noted that the ‘Hail Melon’ didn’t happen exactly as he planned.
Chastain didn’t realize that the outside wall at Martinsville Speedway bows out slightly entering Turn 3. He also had forgotten about the track gate at the exit of Turn 4. Luckily, the car didn’t catch the gate and it held up just enough for the journeyman driver to gain the positions necessary to make the 2022 Championship 4.
“Unbelievable, truly unbelievable,” Chastain admitted. “When I see a clip of it, video of it or the data on it, it doesn’t seem real. Looking at the car, it’s pretty wild to think what we accomplished in doing that. But it’seven more awesome that it will never be done again. When I hit the wall in Turn 3, I actually hit it at more of an angle than I wanted to. I wanted to blend into it on the straightaway and never have a hard impact, and the wall actually kicks out to the right just a few inches.
“I didn’t know that (until I) hit it way too hard in Turn 3. Somehow it didn’t slow down, and I think a combination of the body panels not being metal, not caving in on the tires, cutting them down, the tires still hold air, same tires, same wheels, they hold the same amount of air as they did before and for just as long. So, I think everything about this car played into it and we’re leaning up against it.”
The ‘Hail Melon’ ultimately was this generation’s ‘pass in the grass’ by Dale Earnhardt, the ‘and there’s a fight’ between Cale Yarborough and both Bobby and Donnie Allison, or other iconic moments in NASCAR history. It didn’t dawn on Chastain until Lionel Racing informed him that the raced version of that car was No. 1 in diecast sales for 2022.
The revelation that he had unseated Chase Elliott and became the first driver not named Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, or Chase Elliott to have the No. 1 selling diecast was an eye opener. Chastain plans to use that as motivation to keep winning, making sure that the ‘Hail Melon’ won’t simply be a blip on the NASCAR radar.
“One of the first times I grasped that aspect was actually the diecast sales and Lionel reached out and let us know that for 2022, we were the number one selling diecast,” Chastain recalled. “That’s the first time ever that it wasn’t an Earnhardt, a Petty, or an Elliott.
“You add Chastain in there, there’s one that doesn’t seem to fit, and continuing to win like this year at Nashville continuing to be fast is motivation for me to make my name not just to blip on that radar and maybe sell the most diecast again one day for more of the right reasons. There are little nuggets of information that make my mind realize and make it really understand as much as I can kind of comprehend that, yeah, we’re up there and we belong there.”
Since that historic move that captivated the motorsports world, NASCAR outlawed it on safety grounds. That allows Chastain to keep the glory of the moment with himself and his Trackhouse team. It has blended into pop culture as Trackhouse co-owner Pitbull alluded to the ‘Hail Melon’ in song lyrics.
While Chastain hopes to not only be remembered by the ‘Hail Melon,’ he aims to expand his mark on NASCAR history.