“…Made Him One of the Greatest…” – Ross Chastain Pointed Road to Glory by NASCAR Icon

For those unaware of the talent Mark Martin was, ESPN once called him “The best driver to never win a championship.” That’s lofty praise but fully deserved. So it’s safe to say that if he has some advice for Ross Chastain, he should pay complete attention.

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Ross Chastain finished the 2022 Cup Series season in 2nd place, after having finished 3rd in the Championship 4 race in Phoenix. But his appearance in Phoenix was because of Hail Mary, or ‘Hail Melon’the move he pulled at Martinsville.

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They criticized Chastain on multiple occasions for being too aggressive by other drivers; Martinsville was just one of those occasions where his driving was called out. It happened in Phoenix too, with his nudge to Chase Elliott spinning the Hendrick Motorsports driver out of contention for the title.

Mark Martin’s advice to Chastain

On the ‘Mark, Mamba & The Mayor’ podcastMartin had some advice for the inexperienced driver. “The only thing that’s kept me from being his number one fanboy is that he’s been rougher than I think necessary. And I’ll just expand on that just a little bit, and I do this all the time. But I wasn’t Ernie Irvan’s biggest fan. He was so incredibly fast but he bounced off a lot of stuff. And a lot of times that meant people, drivers.”

BRISTOL, TN – SEPTEMBER 16: Ross Chastain (#1 TrackHouse Racing Worldwide Express Chevrolet) climbs into his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Bass Pro Shops Night Race on September 16, 2022, at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, TN. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“And I didn’t appreciate that. I understand it was a different time. But the thing about Ernie was after he did that long enough, he recognized it was gonna deter his career if he kept on that path. And he made a change in his driving personality and that made him one of the greatest of all time in NASCAR… one of the greatest. I would like to see Ross be able to make that change…”

To be compared with Swervin’ Irvan is both a massive compliment and a big warning. If Martin sees potential in Chastain, there must be something big coming up for the driver. As per Martin, he can do so by fine-tuning himself and his driving.

Can Ross Chastain pull off something similar again next year?

The biggest issue ever since he pulled off that audacious move has been whether such moves should be a part of the sport altogether. NASCAR has been stressing safety ever since the dark days when Dale Earnhardt died at the Daytona 500 in 2001.

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HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 22: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Kubota Chevrolet, waits on the grid during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 22, 2022 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR, Steve O’Donnell, appeared on the Stacking Pennies podcast with Corey LaJoie. O’Donnell explained, “I think you know for us certainly the biggest thing we gotta look at going forward is – I think even if you ask Ross, what happened when he made that move, he’d also tell you he didn’t feel too giddy.

“And so are we gonna force guys in that position, do we wanna do that? Are there some things we can do at Martinsville that can stop that from happening? So, you know we’ll look at that. That’ll be us with a lot of the race teams, talking about what’s the reality of that happening, at what tracks… I think you’ll see us reacting in some way to do something particular about Martinsville.”

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O’Donnell maintains a certain air of diplomacy and uncertainty in his answer. But in the same breath, he makes it clear – there won’t be a repeat of the move happening any time soon. NASCAR needs to think about what to do to prevent it over the off-season.

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