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Watching S1apsh0es: NASCAR’s Most Viral Moment Became Its Biggest Flop

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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S1apsh0es is back with another video this one about the most viral and mainstream controversy in NASCAR to happen in the last 10 years: the Hail Melon. That’s right, in this video S1ap recalls Ross Chastain’s improbable videogame move, the Hail Melon, that he somehow was able to pull off successfully and advance to the Championship Round of 4 at Phoenix. Let’s Watch:

S1ap starts the video with a short introduction to the incident, recalling how it was NASCAR’s most viral moment in ages, polluting TikTok feeds, news broadcasts, and all social media sites. He even describes how insane the move was, describing the fans there in attendance as having just experienced a mass hallucination, comparing it to a glitch in the Matrix. It was a move that would see Ross Chastain advance to the 2022 Championship 4 but despite this, it had no lasting impact on NASCAR’s viewership or its fans going forward.

How Chastain Became The Melon Man

After playing a video package of Dale Jr. calling the Hail Melon a “video game move”, S1ap gives us a quick rundown of Ross Chastain’s origins and how he got to where he is today. To start, Chastain used his funding from being a watermelon farmer to score some backmarker rides in NASCAR’s two lower nationally touring series, Xfinity and Craftsman Trucks. Able to keep his nose clean by avoiding incidents and racing to see the checkered flag, he was able to get a part-time ride driving the number 19 Ford for Brad Keselowski racing.

In the races he ran that season, he had the second-highest finish. This was able to propel him into the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he scored a ride with Chip Ganassi Racing. Even with the team’s sponsor, DC Solar, getting raided by the FBI, Chastain was still able to bounce back to score a Cup ride replacing Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth in their McDonald’s sponsored No. 42. When Ganassi sold to Trackhouse just before the 2022 season, Chastain remained with the team in a rebranded No. 1 car. This opened the door for the perfect storm.

Chastain was able to score two victories earlier in the year to secure a playoff spot. However, as S1ap goes over in the video, his finishes once in the playoffs were subpar and just good enough to squeak by in the Round of 8. If he really wanted to be a contender rather than a pretender, he’d have to start showing up at the end of races. And, in the 2022 Round of 8, that was exactly what he did. He was able to score 3 top-5s which includes the fateful 4th-place finish where Ross pulled off the unthinkable Hail Melon move.

The Hail Melon: A Perfect Storm

With only two laps to go at Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR’s oldest and smallest bullring, Ross Chastain is running 10th, 2 points behind the cutline for the final 4. If he is able to catch and pass two lead lap cars, he would be able to tie for 4th in the standings with season-long rival, Denny Hamlin and he would win the tiebreaker for having more wins on the year. But now, with only half a lap to go, the next car for position is still a half of a straightaway ahead. So, he throws the NextGen car into 5th gear and slams down the throttle heading into turn 3. This results in a U-shaped wall ride of the century.

In those two corners, he went from 10th to 4th to beat Denny Hamlin to the line, advancing himself to the Round of 4 while bitterly eliminating his rival. The move was so incredible that it left many fans wondering why it had never been attempted before. S1ap then reminds us that it has been tried before. Twice, as a matter of fact.

In 2008 at Kansas Speedway, Carl Edwards was in a very heated battle with Jimmie Johnson not only for the race win but for the Cup title. With a lap to go in turn 4, Edwards throttled hard down in the corner and never lifted. He thought that it worked in video games and he’d like to at least try it. It didn’t work. The No. 99 Office Depot Ford ran up the track into the wall and Jimmie Johnson won the race and eventually the Cup. The next time it happened was in 2021 at Darlington where Kyle Larson refused to lift and wall ride in an attempt to beat Hamlin to the line. Hamlin stood his ground, though, and won the race.

After both of these incidents, the cars were destroyed, not meant to take such abuse. They were designed with large crush zones to help energy escape after a hit to protect the driver. S1ap then breaks down the NextGen which was designed with a harder body meant to last and cut down cost for the teams. This resulted in drivers taking the brunt of the force when involved in an incident.

S1ap recalls that Kurt Busch suffered a career-ending injury in the Gen7 while Alex Bowman also missed some seat time due to concussion-like symptoms that year. The hard body of the Gen7 meant that Chastain could ride the wall without the car crumbling to pieces of debris. His official lap time that day was the fastest lap that was ever and will ever be turned at the Paperclip. He did this experiencing more G’s than an astronaut experiences during takeoff and the move has been dubbed The Hail Melon.

Aftermath

The fallout after the Hail Melon was that many people who did not follow NASCAR were talking about Chastain’s move at Martinsville. He was all over TikTok and even the morning shows picked it up for segments. S1ap points out that this could not have come at a better time. It was the penultimate race heading into the Championship race at Phoenix and everybody and their grandmother was talking about NASCAR. Seemingly overnight, Ross Chastain was the hottest name in the sport.

TV ratings had been plummeting over the last couple of years and everyone was expecting a big bump after the move. And yet, when the ratings came in for Phoenix, they were down. Not by a whole lot but there was still a drop which didn’t make any sense. The wallride did not translate in ratings the next week and S1ap considers this to be just where we are as a society: the move was tailor-made to be a TikTok trend but those trends live short life spans. At most, a trend might last a week while trends from a month ago are ancient history. The attention span is just not there anymore. Things happen, they’re consumed, and very quickly forgotten about. It is what it is.

In early 2023 just before the beginning of the new season, NASCAR outlawed the wall ride. Interestingly enough, they didn’t outlaw it for the championship race at Phoenix, maybe hoping that lightning could be trapped in a bottle twice. It never happened. S1ap considers the move to be purely a product of the NASCAR post-season knockout format. It was the added pressure that made Chastain floor it into the wall as if he wasn’t faced with immediate elimination, he never would have entertained the idea.

He then makes the argument that if the Hail Melon proved anything, it was that NASCAR is not rigged. Despite being accused of rigging the end of its races for two decades and the constant comparisons to WWE, S1ap lays out some sound evidence that NASCAR does not rig its races.

Take a look at the 2022 Championship 4: Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, and Joey Logano. Elliott is NASCAR’s golden boy, the undisputed Most Popular Driver and even fans who hate him do not hate him that much. Then there’s Ross Chastain, the man responsible for that viral moment and making NASCAR relevant once again in the mainstream. Next, there’s Christopher Bell, the young hotshot who wins in the clutch. Finally, there’s Joey Logano, probably the most hated driver in NASCAR amongst all fan bases. And who won the 2022 Cup? Logano, the worst possible outcome for NASCAR.

NASCAR could have easily tipped the scales and awarded the title to one of those other three but they didn’t. The most disliked driver in NASCAR won and he won in convincing fashion with his teammate running second. Perhaps the last race of the season was unintentionally rigged after all?

So, what did we learn from all of this? Well, S1ap doesn’t know and I’m not sure I do either. What I do know is that you can keep it right here at dailydownforce.com for all your latest hot topics and news stories in the world of NASCAR.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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