It was the penultimate race of the 2022 season. Chastain was facing certain elimination from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Christopher Bell was moments away from winning his way into the Championship 4. Joey Logano had already locked himself in with a victory a couple weeks prior, while Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin currently held the final two transfer spots.
Chastain’s maiden year with the fledgling Trackhouse Racing Team had been an incredible one, winning twice and leading the entire field in top-fives and top-tens.
However, he had also made a lot of enemies along the way, most notably in Hamlin. The two drivers had several run-ins, and the elimination race at Martinsville was no different. They rubbed fenders and slammed doors while battling for the chance to advance into the championship race.
It looked as though Hamlin was set to prevail with Chastain two points out at the white flag. There was no way he could possibly gain more positions on his own. His title bid was over. But the eighth-generation Florida watermelon farmer would not be denied. What followed was one of, if not the most unbelievable pass in the history of NASCAR. The ‘Martinsville Miracle’ as some have called it, or better known simply as the ‘Hail Melon.’
As the pack slammed on the brakes, downshifting as they filed into the tight Turns 3 and 4 of the half-mile short track, Chastain upshifted instead. He kept the pedal to the floor, the car against the outside wall, and suddenly no one cared about who won the race. There was a stunned silence, and then there were just cheers.
The No. 1 Chevrolet ripped around the outermost bounds of the race track, grinding against the wall and blistering past his astonished competitors. He lost hold of the wheel as he flew past five cars in total, drawing even with Hamlin at the line and eliminating his season-long rival from title contention.
His final lap shattered the Martinsville track record for a NASCAR stock car at 18.845s, running nearly a full second faster than that weekend’s pole speed set by Kyle Larson.
The video blew up, transcending the motorsports world entirely and reaching mainstream news. It was viewed over 100 million times across social media. Even Formula 1 World Champions took notice.
Fernando Alonso praised the move, saying: “This is the best thing of 2022 in motor racing! We all did this on video games with damage disable. Never thought this could become reality.”
He was far…