NASCAR has basically banned the “Hail Melon” video game transport driver that Ross Chastain used at Martinsville Speedway to race his way to the championship final.
Last year Chastain mashed the gas and deliberately smashed the wall so the energy would speed his car past his rivals. The move advanced to the final four-place NASCAR title-clinching race and was lauded by motorsports figures globally.
But fellow NASCAR competitors thought Chastain’s trick was dangerous and not in the spirit of fair competition. Chastain’s wall-hugging, jaw-dropping last-lap pass will be a penalty in 2023, NASCAR said Tuesday.
“It’s not a new rule,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “I think we all remember the last-lap action at Martinsville in the fall. It brought a great deal of excitement, a great deal of exposure to our sport. But it also came with some scrutiny.”
NASCAR cited Rule 10.5.2.6.A, which states that “Any violations deemed to endanger the safety of the event or pose a serious risk to the safety of competitors, officials, spectators, or others shall be treated with the highest degree of seriousness.”
There was an internal discussion about the need to “do something,” Sawyer said, but NASCAR waited until after the season to collaborate and study the data and research the rulebook.
“This is not a new language,” he said. “Basically if there is an act that we feel endangers the safety of our competitors, officials and spectators, we will take that seriously. We will be penalized for that action in the future. Basically it would be a lap or time penalty at the end of the race. That move in Martinsville would be a kick penalty in 2023.
Chastain was about to be eliminated from the appendix when he swooped into the racing action he used in the GameCube with his brother, Chad, as a kid. He pinned his car to the outside wall, let go of the steering wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor.
It worked just as well as it did in the video game. Suddenly, on the last half lap on the Martinsville short track, Chastain’s car seemed to go into high gear as everyone stomped.
At 50 mph faster than anyone else, he passed five cars in a matter of seconds to claim last place in the title race.
He finished second to Joey Logano in the championship final in Phoenix.
Other notable changes for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023:
– Losing a wheel will no longer be a four-wheel suspension for the crew chief and two crew members. It would be a two-race suspension for the crew if it happened off pit road.
There will be no rest periods on the road courses. NASCAR will still award points at the end of stages, just without the artificial caution.
NASCAR will give teams seven minutes on pit road to work on their cars if they are damaged in an accident. It was six minutes last year before it was increased to 10 minutes for cup qualifiers.
– Replay areas will be increased by 50% – 25% more space before the start/finish line and 25% more at the end. The rule change applies to the first five events of the season and will re-evaluate from there.
NASCAR has eliminated the top 30 point requirement for drivers attempting to make the playoffs. Drivers will still be required to participate in each event unless they are granted a waiver (usually for injury).
The Silencer will be used in the season-opening Clash, an exhibition race that will be held at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the season in a row. Mufflers will reduce engine noise and create a more conducive atmosphere for fan talks.
– NASCAR has modified the language in its rulebook to mandate fire-retardant undergarments from the neck to the wrists to the ankles. It had previously been recommended.
NASCAR will use new in-car scoring systems that will provide more robust crash data. It’s a significant upgrade from the black box technology first used in 2002 following the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR will see a “significant increase” in the number of drivers wearing mouthpiece sensors in races. It was not available at every event in 2022 but will start in 2023. Data loggers measure the cars’ experience; This will provide live data from drivers and what they go through during races, specifically in crashes.
– NASCAR has officially identified eight locations where wet weather (rain tire) packages will be available in 2023: LA Coliseum (Clash), Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro (All-Star race), Phoenix and Richmond. NASCAR will have “rain” tires and teams will be required to have windshield wiper extensions and taillights in case NASCAR wants to race in wet conditions for the Clash, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, and Richmond.
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