Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Wins at Martinsville; Video Game Move Nets Ross Chastain Final Transfer Spot

UPDATE: During post-race inspection, Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford was disqualified from a season-best finish of fourth for “not meeting the minimum weight requirements” under Section 14.11.2 of the 2022 NASCAR Rule Book.

Christopher Bell came to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday (Oct. 30) in what was essentially a must-win situation, three races after pulling off a clutch victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL to advance to the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 8.

He did it again.

Bell dominated late on Halloween eve and rebounded from split pit strategy in the waning laps to retake the lead, going unchallenged the final five laps en route to his third victory of 2022 and the 200th Cup victory for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Mom and Dad, we did it! Woo!” Bell exulted in his on-track interview on NBC. “I can’t believe it, man. To come here to Martinsville, this place has always been so tough on me. Pre-race, I was looking up and seeing all the fans, and this place is packed. I don’t even know what to say.”

“[…] Everyone on this Joe Gibbs Racing team, man, they believed in me since day one. We went to Xfinity and did really well, struggled on the cup side for the first little bit and they stuck with me. Very appreciative to be here. I don’t even know what to say.”

Behind him, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott had relatively calm races, but it was at the cutoff line where the drama unfolded. Denny Hamlin passed six cars in the final 30 laps to hold a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain on the final lap of the race.

And just when the transfer race seemed decided, Chastain pulled off a video-game move to somehow, some way secure the final spot in the Championship 4. The No. 1 wall-rode his way through turns 3 and 4 at full speed, passing five drivers (including Hamlin) to advance to Phoenix Raceway by just four points. Chastain’s final lap was 18.845 seconds and 100.483 mph; the pole speed for the race was 96.078 mph.

“Playing a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube with [brother] Chad [Chastain] growing up and you could get away with it,” Chastain said of the move. “I never knew if it would actually work. I did that when I was eight years old. […] I asked off of [turn] 2 if we needed it and we did. I couldn’t tell who was leading, and I just made the choice. I grabbed fifth gear down the back and full committed. Once I got against the wall, I made sure to let go of the wheel and just hoped that it didn’t catch the turn 4 access gate or something crazy, but I was willing to do it.”

Chastain secured the fourth and final Championship 4 berth via the move. Logano was already locked in heading to Martinsville, while Elliott clinched on points and Bell kept his title hopes alive with the win.

Polesitter Kyle Larson finished second behind Bell, and he will compete for the owner’s championship next weekend. Ryan Blaney was eliminated from championship contention with a third-place finish, while Brad Keselowski crossed the line in fourth before being disqualified. Chastain went from 10th to fifth — and finished fourth after Keselowski’s disqualification — in the final two turns to take the final transfer spot.

Hamlin was eliminated from the playoffs with a fifth-place finish, despite leading 203 laps and sweeping the first two stages. Logano finished sixth and advanced to Phoenix, while William Byron was eliminated after finishing seventh. Bubba Wallace finished eighth in his first race back from a suspension while Chase Briscoe — who was passed for the lead late by Bell after staying out with 30 laps to go — was eliminated after finishing ninth.

Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10 to clinch one of the two transfer spots on points. Logano, Bell, Elliott and Chastain will compete for the driver’s championship next week at Phoenix.

Larson faced brief contention from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott in the early laps of the race, but he maintained his spot out front despite subsequent interference from traffic. The No. 5 was forced at times to pressure lapped cars with slight bumps, as position was at a premium and passing was minimal in the opening stage. Leaders encountered the lapped traffic after only 25 laps.

Playoff drivers swapped spots early as well, including Briscoe and Blaney — Blaney moved into third after starting fourth, but Briscoe retook the position later in the first stage. That battle aside, the top 10 positions saw little to no changes through a large part of the first stage, while further back, Kyle Busch fell outside the top 20 after starting 18th. Fellow Halloween-livery driver Kevin Harvick maintained a spot within the top 10.

Elliott eventually passed Larson on lap 69 as they waded through lapped traffic; it was the first on-track pass for the lead in either Martinsville race this year. Bell climbed through the field early, making his way into the top 10 in a must-win situation, while fellow contender Blaney wrestled with a hard-to-drive machine and fell back to seventh.

Spring winner Byron struggled after starting 25th, going a lap down in each of the first two stages. Hamlin, just five points below the cutline at the start of the race, passed Elliott with a handful of laps remaining in stage one and took the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 130.

Little changed throughout stage two, as Hamlin led the field back to green-flag racing and flat-out dominated.

Back in the field, however, Tyler Reddick retired from the race just shy of lap 200.

“Haven’t felt right since the restart,” Reddick said over the radio. “My head hurts.”

The No. 8 stopped in the garage and Reddick was met by team owner Richard Childress after exiting the car.

Though Reddick declined to speak with NBC afterward, the two-time Xfinity champion reportedly hadn’t been feeling optimal after a crash last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway — a feeling compounded by rear-ending a competitor during Sunday’s race.

Hamlin went on to lap up to 13th in stage two, while Reddick was checked and released from the infield care center.

The first caution for incident flew on lap 274, as Chastain drove into turn 1 too hot and made contact with Keselowski, sending the No. 6 into the wall. Logano was inches clear of the contact, but pitted anyway due to a fire inside the car; he was the second Ford to catch on fire alongside BJ McLeod.

Austin Dillon was the next to encounter the outside wall, hitting it passenger-side first with a hard crash just after lap 300.

The crash eliminated the second Richard Childress Racing car from the race as well, and it led to a pit stop cycle in which Hamlin’s crew lost the No. 11 three spots on pit road; Hamlin narrowly avoided a pit road penalty after a close call with the commitment line.

Hamlin’s JGR teammate Bell won the race off and led the field to green, but another caution flew on lap 393 for a JJ Yeley spin. Bell retained the lead on pit stops and was followed by fellow must-win playoff contender Blaney, while Hamlin lost spots yet again.

Bell set sail on the restart with around 100 laps left, and had built a multi-second lead before contact with Austin Cindric and other lapped traffic drew the two cars closer. It was a half-second gap between Bell and Blaney with 50 laps remaining. Elliott, Larson and Hamlin rounded out the top five at that point.

A Landon Cassill crash brought out one final caution with 33 laps to go, which led to split strategy with Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Briscoe and Cole Custer staying out front while everyone else hit pit road.

Hamlin and Chastain — constant rivals this season — got into it back in the field while Bell, Keselowski and Briscoe waged a battle for the lead. Briscoe fell back, as did Keselowski, and Bell set sail after passing Briscoe with five laps remaining.

While the No. 20 led, more drama unfolded back in the pack: Hamlin and Chastain continued to trade the final transfer spot, and Hamlin appeared to have it locked up by a couple points over the No. 1 as the white flag flew.

That was the case, at least, until Chastain went full video-game move on the last lap. The two-time 2022 winner went all-out into the final two corners, wall-riding at full speed and rocketing from 10th to fifth in half a lap.

Chastain also passed Hamlin as the checkered waved, eliminating the No. 11 from the playoffs and locking himself in in the process.

Bell, meanwhile, was the other unexpected addition to the Championship 4, scoring a second clutch victory in the 2022 playoffs at a track he’d never finished better than seventh at in Cup. Outside of that, every finish for him there had been 15th or worse.

“I say it all the time, but the driver is just a small piece of the puzzle for these races,” Bell added with a huge smile in his post-race interview. “The reason why this car won today is because it was the best car on the racetrack. […] This entire [No.] 20 group, they just never give up.

“Our back’s against the wall and it looks like it’s over, and they show up and give me the fastest car out here. I don’t know, man. Words can’t describe this feeling.”

Larson, Blaney, Keselowski and Chastain rounded out the top five. Hamlin, Logano, Byron, Bubba Wallace and Briscoe completed the top 10.

NASCAR heads west to the desert for its championship weekend, and the Cup Series’ championship race at Phoenix Raceway is slated for Sunday, Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. ET.

NASCAR RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: MARTINSVILLE

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Carl D.

I was watching a race and a video game broke out. I’m still stunned. Ross Chastain just became legendary.

Congrats to Bell. His teammates Truex, Hamlin, and Rowdy will watch the newest guy try to win one for Toyota.

Bobby DK

I’ll bet Nascar says that’s illegal by Tuesday.

Echo

Yayyyy NO HAMLIN. No way that was not legal. HAMLIN OUT and the preacher is stunned. I love it. Unbelievable move. Hey bubba, that’s how you don’t lift lololol

Bobby DK

The look on D-bags face , and the boos reigning down after the race were priceless. But D-bag did recognize a cool move when he saw it!

Bill B

Extremely happy Hamlin missed out. Damn that had to hurt. Had the fastest car and still came up short. At 42 (next year) his window is shrinking…. melting,,, melting… melting.

I agree with Carl D. That Chastain move was Hollywood, “Tin Cup” material. Most fans will not remember who won this race 10 years from now, but they will remember Chastain’s 6th place finish.

I also agree with Bobby DK that NASCAR will probably have to make some kind of rule prohibiting that move. It’s at least as dangerous as going below the double lines on RP tracks. Imagine the chaos if one or more drivers try that at the end of every race? I really like the move but I can see why it is controversial due to the danger.

Bobby DK

Yep. If not illegal by Tuesday, how many of top 4 try this at Phoenix? Move won’t work at most tracks but could work at Phoenix.

Bill B

The easy rule is to paint a line on the wall at the end of turn 4 (where the track straightens out) and make it illegal to engage the wall and gain spots prior to that line. I can’t imagine anyone gaining an advantage by riding the wall if they can’t start accelerating until they are out of the turn.

Bobby DK

More like” if Nascar deems” or “endangerment to oneself or others”.

Jeremy

That move by Chastain was freaking BRILLIANT! Obviously if it hadn’t worked it would have been seen as dumb, but hats off to him having the guts to try it! HA! And Hamlin eliminated, LOVE IT!!

Bobby DK

And after watching the Gateway race when Ross wrecked D-bag and then the Big D tried to rub and wreck Ross multiple times, I would have paid a ton of money to see the expression on D-dogs face when Ross passed him on the outside for elimination at Martinsville!!

Bobby DK

And by the way. Let’s hope D-dink doesn’t take it out on Ross at Phoenix.

Bobby

The greatest move of the whole NASCAR season! But, let none of us be surprised if tomorrow Jesus Joe files some kind of “Motion to dismiss” final race results, based on unsafe driving or unsportsmanlike conduct. You can’t put anything past those creeps at JGR.

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