The anniversary of one of the best things to happen to NASCAR in many years has already come and gone.
It was a year ago last Friday (Oct. 20) when Ross Chastain took his hands off the wheel of his No. 1 Chevrolet and rode Martinsville Speedway’s wall into the Championship 4 — and the history books.
Some call it the “Hail Melon.”
Whatever you want to term it, it moved the needle for NASCAR in a way that nothing else had since 2020.
According to a Trackhouse Racing release from April, Chastain’s desperate gambit resulted in a highlight that had received 225 million views and 1.2 billion impressions, whatever that means.
In one weekend, Chastain forced a lineup of outlets that normally wouldn’t give two Carl Edwards‘ flips about NASCAR at this point — The Washington Post, BroBible, SB Nation, Business Insider and more — to divert their audience’s attention to the sport.
But the highlight of the moment for me — other than watching in shock as it happened live from my living room — came later that Sunday night and was foreshadowed by Joey Logano.
“If that doesn’t make SportsCenter Top 10 plays, I don’t know what does,” Logano said in the moments after it happened.
Just after 11 p.m. CT, following a series of basketball and football highlights that no one likely remembered within 48 hours of them happening, the prophecy was fulfilled.
Then NASCAR understandably went and banned the maneuver for competition’s sake. You don’t want every trip to Martinsville in the fall to result in that wild act.
First, it’s dangerous. Second, if everyone’s doing it, the shine would would wear off on the original.
The decision by NASCAR helped Justin Marks and Trackhouse Racing in deciding what to do with the “Hail Melon” car. Now it can be found at the team’s Concord, North Carolina, shop, where fans can see it for themselves.
In March, before last spring’s race weekend at Martinsville, a section of the wall that Chastain skidded across was removed for preservation’s sake.
“As I removed the wall, that’s where it really set in,” Chastain said recently, according to the NASCAR Wire Service. “That was the moment it sunk in. It just kind of hit me that this always will be something that I’m remembered for.”
Chastain is in his fifth full-time year in the Cup Series, with three wins in 185 total starts. He could go the rest of his career without winning another race and he’d be safely secured in the lore of NASCAR.
And there may be some people who don’t like that NASCAR or its TV partners are using the Hail Melon as they promote this weekend’s race playoff elimination race … because they banned the maneuver?
Have they met NASCAR?
This is the same sanctioning body/media partners that will — at the drop of a hat — show a decade-old angry helmet toss, a pit road brawl or the Cale Yarborough, Bobby and Donnie Allison Daytona 500 fight from 1979 without hesitation.
You don’t see those every weekend.
Heck, the Hail Melon was constantly used during the April Martinsville weekend.
It’s the anniversary of what is quite literally a “you had to be there, because it won’t happen again” moment.
Chastain’s moment will be one where, years from now, the number of people who claimed to be there outnumbers the actual amount of people who saw it in person.
If NASCAR manages to exist for another 25 years, the 100th anniversary highlight reels will include a lot: the Yarborough/Allisons fight, Dale Earnhardt winning the 1998 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the 2001 Pepsi 400, just to name a few.
It is a sure bet that Chastain’s cannonball into the Championship 4 will be among them.
2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com.
The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.
You can email him at email@example.com.
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