We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the “Hail Melon” move that Ross Chastain pulled off in the fall Martinsville race in 2022. The move made the rounds on social media not only in NASCAR circles but also in general social media conversations. For the first time in seemingly years, NASCAR was a popular topic at the water cooler on Monday.
Over the offseason, NASCAR banned the move. Now that we are one year removed, should the move have been banned? Let’s take a look at it from all angles.
Why Was it Banned to Begin With?
NASCAR banned the move, but they did not create a new rule to ban it. Rather, NASCAR decided to put the move in the category of an existing rule. They put it under rule 10.5.6.2.A which reads as follows according to ESPN.
any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of competitors, officials, spectators or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness.NASCAR rulebook
NASCAR deemed the move was dangerous, and it posed a risk to the safety of the event. Was NASCAR right to make that assumption?
Why NASCAR Was Right?
The “Hail Melon” was a very popular move at the time, but, it was a move that may have gotten old really quick. If every Playoff elimination race finished with cars wall-riding through turns three and four on the last lap, that would have looked unprofessional. It’s also easy to see how a move like that could go very wrong.
If Chastain hit the wall just a bit wrong or the car bounced just the wrong way, it could shoot the wrong way into traffic or the wall itself. It also could cause significant damage to the race car. Running a car full throttle into the wall at the wrong angle can have some severe consequences, even at a track like Martinsville.
It’s always better to be proactive than reactive, and NASCAR tried to be as proactive as they could have by nipping this in the bud. If the move was attempted and went south one day, then NASCAR would. be rightfully criticized for not acting sooner.
Why NASCAR Was Wrong?
This move thrust NASCAR into the mainstream, and it is best to build on a move like this. When the 1979 Daytona 500 fight happened, there was a penalty, but they did not outright ban fighting. NASCAR knew that this fight was something that people loved, so they ran with it.
The move was definitely dangerous, yes, and it is understandable to discourage a move like this. However, it was exciting, and NASCAR should find a creative way to set some sort of a deterrent without actively banning it. Maybe NASCAR could have found a less severe penalty to give for trying a move like this so that drivers could attempt it under the right circumstances.
At the end of the day, NASCAR has a responsibility to protect drivers from themselves. Drivers are going to go to great lengths to get what they are after, and, sometimes, they will overstep boundaries. Those boundaries may pose a risk to that driver’s safety more than their competitors.
It’s what NASCAR’s rulebook is there for. They need to make sure the drivers are rightfully aggressive, but not in a way that puts them in unnecessary danger. Did the “Hail Melon” fall underneath this category?
The fans can debate that amongst themselves. However, NASCAR felt that it did, regardless of the impact it had on the sport.