NASCAR driver Ross Chastain rocketed from 10th to 5th place in the final turn of a 500-lap race yesterday, securing himself a spot in the end-of-season Cup race and in NASCAR history, too. And he did it with a move he learned in a videogame.
"Played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube."@RossChastain explained his video-game move. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/4jkF6BzAgkOctober 30, 2022
Chastain made use of the classic 'wall-riding' manoeuvre: accelerating into the racetrack barrier at full speed and letting it steer him past five competitors. The foolhardy move not only secured Chastain's team—Trackhouse Racing—its first ever appearance in the NASCAR Championship final, but it also set the record for the fastest lap in the history of the Martinsville Speedway (opens in new tab), where the race occurred.
Growing up, Chastain "played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube" he said in a post-race interview, "and I never knew if it would actually work. I mean I did that when I was 8 years old". That didn't dissuade him, though: "I just made the choice. I grabbed fifth gear down the back and full-committed" before he "basically let go of the wheel" and let the gods of stock car racing decide his fate.
It clearly worked out, as Chastain's position among the four racers in the Championship this coming Sunday will attest, but not everyone is thrilled about the racer's game-inspired antics. Last year's champion Kyle Larson told reporters (opens in new tab) that the move was "not a good look for our sport, at all [...] I think it's pretty embarrassing". Of course, Larson himself attempted a similar but unsuccessful move (opens in new tab) in a race last year, so maybe he's just jealous of Chastain's technique.
It's a dramatic example of videogames crossing over into the real world, but it's far from the only overlap between the NASCAR world and ours. More than a few NASCAR drivers keep their skills sharp with iRacing (opens in new tab), the rules-heavy racing sim that we quite like ourselves (opens in new tab). Personally, I'm hoping Chastain unleashes another game-inspired trick at Sunday's final. Maybe he can cheat the system by just reversing over the finish line right at the start.