This animation, constructed from the NBC broadcast of the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2022, features Ross Chastain’s now famous wall ride, which propelled him from 10th place to 5th place in a video game-inspired move. The maneuver allowed Chastain to qualify for the NASCAR Championship. (Credit: NBC)

How physics and a video game trick forever changed the NASCAR Championships

Using physics, Ross Chastain floored it during the final turn, scraping the wall and passing 5 cars to advance to the NASCAR championship.

Ethan Siegel
10 min readNov 9, 2022

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If you’ve ever driven a car, you know how important it is for your tires to grip the road. As long as your tires aren’t slipping along the road, you remain in control of your vehicle; when you turn your steering wheel, the angle at which your tires grip the road changes, propelling you forward with an accompanying change in direction. If your tires do slip, however, you’ll start to skid, losing your ability to control which direction your car travels in. It’s why rainy, snowy, and icy conditions are so dangerous, and why traveling at a speed too fast for the road you’re on so frequently leads to car crashes.

And yet, on October 30, 2022 — in a scene that might seem to come straight out of a video game — NASCAR driver Ross Chastain did the seemingly unthinkable: he floored the accelerator through the race’s final turn, deliberately losing control of his vehicle in the process. Because of the specific way he executed this maneuver, however, he didn’t experience a catastrophic crash; he leapt up the leaderboard, climbing from 10th place to 5th. More importantly, he…

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Ethan Siegel

The Universe is: Expanding, cooling, and dark. It starts with a bang! #Cosmology Science writer, astrophysicist, science communicator & NASA columnist.