Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks announced Wendesday that the car used by Ross Chastain in the "Hail Melon" last fall at Martinsville Speedway will now be preserved as a show car and historical piece. The team has opted to take this course of action despite 90% of the car's parts still being usable.
While Marks noted that keeping the car in the exact condition it was raced in would cost Trackhouse Racing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the intangible historical value of the car outweighed financial considerations. The team had gone back and forth on what to do, but ultimately decided to save the car after NASCAR announced a rule change that would make similar moves subject to penalty on safety grounds.
"Ross' move at Martinsville was a historic moment and should be preserved for the fans for years to come in physical form," Marks wrote. "This sport isn't just about the balance sheet, it's about passion and moments and people."
February 1, 2023
Running 10th on the final lap of last year's playoff elimination race to determine the Championship 4, Chastain came off Turn 2 well out of striking distance to gain enough positions to earn the final Championship 4 spot on points. In a last resort, Chastain put his car in fifth gear, put his foot to the floorboard, and put his car right up against the outside wall in Turns 3 and 4.
The move, previously thought only possible in video games, was a successful one as Chastain went from 10th in Turn 3 to fourth at the checkered flag in physics-defying fashion. The signature moment in Chastain's career has since been dubbed the "Hail Melon" in a nod to Chastain's background as a watermelon farmer.
When asked in post-race by CBS Sports whether the car had a future or if it would be preserved, Chastain had initially been unsure if the undamaged parts of the car would be used again or if the car would be repaired.
"The control arms might both be broken on the right front. They'll have to take it all apart and measure everything. As far as the chassis goes," Chastain said last October. "... The great thing about these cars is if it's not bent, we can race it next year. It wasn't going to Phoenix either way, I knew that.
"But, yeah, I'm not sure. Obviously everything that's got a scratch on it is coming off and will never be raced again. It will be spread out to remember this moment."
In addition to Chastain's car, Martinsville Speedway has announced that the marks on the outside wall in Turns 3 and 4 will not be painted over until the track's next race weekend in April.