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On Sunday, NASCAR driver Ross Chastain truly made history with a groundbreaking maneuver that not only qualified him for a championship race but also set a new track record for the fastest lap. Surprisingly, Chastain attributes his success to a move he learned while playing NASCAR 2005 on the Nintendo GameCube as a child.
The incredible feat occurred at the Xfinity 500 race held at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Known for its tight, shallow-banked turns that typically require heavy braking, Martinsville Speedway is a challenging half-mile short track. In the final lap of the race, Chastain found himself in 10th place, needing to overtake two cars to secure enough points for the Championship race on November 6. Rather than slowing down on the turn, Chastain made a bold decision. He shifted into fifth gear, accelerated to the maximum, and rode the outside wall, skillfully passing five cars to finish the race in fifth place.
During a post-race interview with NBC Sports, Chastain revealed, “I played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube with Chad [Chastain’s brother] growing up, and you can get away with it, and I never knew if it would actually work. I did that when I was 8 years old.”
The game Chastain referred to is likely NASCAR 2005: Chase For the Cup, released in September 2004 for the GameCube. Considering Chastain’s birthdate in December 1992, he would have been around 12 years old at that time. Intrigued by his statement, we decided to test the technique ourselves. Using the Dolphin emulator on a PC, we played NASCAR 2005, selected the Martinsville track, and attempted to replicate Chastain’s move. It was indeed possible in the game, although executing it successfully required a combination of skill and luck.
To comprehend the advantage of Chastain’s daring move, a basic understanding of racing physics proves helpful. Typically, when tackling a tight turn, drivers apply brakes to counteract the forces pushing their cars to the outside of the track. This conventional braking action significantly reduces speed during the turn. However, Chastain defied convention by maintaining fifth gear, hugging the wall, and releasing the steering wheel, allowing the wall to keep his car in place without needing to apply any brakes. This brilliant strategy allowed him to overtake five cars and set a lap record that had remained unbroken for 75 years.
Of course, such a daring move does come at a cost, which explains why it hasn’t been attempted—or at least successfully executed—before now. Chastain’s car suffered damage from scraping against the wall, and there was a risk of catastrophic failure if it collided with any protruding obstructions. “Once I got against the wall, I basically let go of the wheel and just hoped I didn’t catch the turn four access gate or something crazy,” Chastain acknowledged. “But I was willing to do it.”
For now, the racing world is equal parts amazed, surprised, and slightly concerned that Chastain’s groundbreaking move might become a regular technique in the future. As Chastain prepares for the Championship on November 6, he is likely appreciating the attention garnered by his unconventional maneuver—an homage to his days playing the Nintendo GameCube.
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