Veteran NASCAR crew chief and TV pundit Chad Knaus believes that a repeat of Ross Chastain’s sensational last-lap wall-riding move at Martinsville could be repeated in this weekend’s season finale at Phoenix.
With the title on the line between Chastain, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano, Knaus was asked to reflect on what happened on Sunday on FOX’s RaceHub show on Wednesday evening.
“Clearly premeditated, I have to think,” said Knaus, who is also vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports. “I was sitting on top of the 5 car’s pitbox right in the middle between Turns 3 and 4 and as you watch the race you kinda get a cadence of what’s going on around you, and all of a sudden this car comes and I don’t know what’s happening. I think something really, really bad is going on, because this car is coming way too fast.
“Obviously I jump up and Cliff Daniels [Kyle Larson’s crew chief] and I look at one another, and then we both looked at the gate – we immediately thought this guy is going to look like you at Bristol [pointing to co-guest Michael Waltrip, who survived a horror crash there in 1990] if that gate opens up. I was really concerned about that.
“It’s spectacular, necessary, I get it that it worked and he pulled it off… I don’t know how I feel about it deep in my heart to be honest with you. I think it’s a good one-time thing. I don’t think the industry needs to see that kind of thing happening consistently. I think that could be a problem, right? But we’ll see what happens.”
When pushed on whether the move could be repeated at Phoenix this weekend, with the title up for grabs, Knaus replied: “I think you could absolutely do it at Phoenix. I think the track lends itself to it, once again, you’re going into those corners, you’re going to be lifting, you can commit and go for it, yeah. I don’t like that, I don’t think it’s a good thing.”
Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Knaus also highlighted some of the safety implications of employing the tactic, which NASCAR has confirmed that it won’t ban – at least in the short term.
“I think there’s a few knock-ons that I think could go wrong,” he pointed out. “For instance, I’ve seen cars hit with the right sides and climb up on the wall. So what happens if you commit to that and you climb up into the wall and ship off into the stands?
“There’s a lot of safety things to go on, what if you hit that access gate? What if you ricochet off that wall into somebody else?
“There’s a lot of bad things that can happen with that. But, the way the game is right now, it’s a Hail Mary move and it’s there and it’s legal.”
Waltrip made the point that the caution flag wasn’t thrown at Martinsville, which would have the impact of freezing the field at the last timing loop.
Knaus said: “Everything happened so quickly at Martinsville, honestly that’s what shoulda happened as soon as he got into the wall in Turn 3, they should’ve flown the caution flag. But they were just as in awe as anyone, right?
“But in Phoenix the track is much wider, and you enter Turn 3 much further away from the start/finish line. If somebody jumps up there, they very easily could throw the caution flag.
“I really hate that we’re in this position and NASCAR is in this position. If there’s anybody out there that doesn’t like rules, it’s me. I hate to put NASCAR in a position to make a judgement call. I don’t know what happens [next]we’re just going to have to wait and see.”