Frontstretch Staff · Monday May 27, 2013
Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!
Sprint Cup: As The Rope Turns You know Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is as bizarre as it gets when your biggest memory surrounds a piece of rope. On lap 121, a nylon rope holding one of FOX’s overhead cameras in place simply broke, dropping it over the racetrack in Turn 4. Kyle Busch promptly ran over it, shattering debris everywhere which also hampered the cars of Marcos Ambrose and Mark Martin. A caution, then a red flag situation occurred from the incident, where teams who incurred damage were able to repair their cars. But concerns immediately turned to the grandstands, where 10 fans were injured from flying cable and other debris.
As of Monday morning, all of those spectators have been treated and released, although the mystery surrounding the cable remains. FOX Sports, in a statement claimed the cause of the breakage was unknown but that it’s not the first time this type of cabling has been used at a major auto racing event.
“At this time,” the network said, “We do not have a cause for the failure of the camera drive line that interrupted tonight’s Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and our immediate concern is with the injured fans. The camera system consists of three ropes — a drive rope which moves the camera back and forth, and two guide ropes on either side. The drive rope failed near the Turn 1 connection and fell to the track. The camera itself did not come down because guide ropes acted as designed. A full investigation is planned, and use of the camera is suspended indefinitely.”
“This camera system had been used successfully at this year’s Daytona 500, last week’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and other major events around the world. We certainly regret that the system failure affected tonight’s event, we apologize to the racers whose cars were damaged, and our immediate concern is for the race fans. We also offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to the staff at CMS for attending to the injuries and keeping us informed on this developing situation. When we have more information on the cause of the equipment failure, we will share it with you immediately.”
Kevin Harvick went on to win the Coca Cola 600, his second victory of 2013 but it was overshadowed by yet another strange occurrence at Charlotte, joining the “levigation” of the mid-2000s and the rain-delay wreck in the All-Star Race back in 2001.
“Hell, the first time I drove by I said, Hell, my career is over, my eyes have taken a crap,” explained the winner. “I saw this streak go by me. What in the hell was that? I always have this thing with my eyes. It’s one of the biggest things we have as drivers. You got to believe in your eyes. I tell myself, You got to believe what you saw.”
“I got to the start/finish line, I eased off the gas, I knew what I had seen the lap before, I was hoping it wasn’t my last race, I was hoping what I saw was right. I let off at the start/finish line, there was that black streak again. I was looking for it. You could see the cable hanging down.”
Most drivers, to NASCAR’s credit applauded the sanctioning body for allowing teams to fix their cars under red flag conditions. Because of that, Busch remained a contender for the win until blowing an engine while Ambrose was able to recover for a top-10 finish. Tom Bowles
Nationwide: Beyond Kyle Busch Yeah, so Kyle Busch might have won his sixth race of the Nationwide Series season in dominating fashion, leading all but 14 laps en route to his seventh victory in the series at the track.
Still, you might have missed a few things while you either slept through or fast forwarded through the entire race on DVR.
To start, Regan Smith has continued his act of single-handedly revitalizing JR Motorsports. After several good-but-not-great seasons, the team has found new life with Smith, the Cup veteran that currently leads the Nationwide points. Smith’s 29-point lead certainly isn’t insurmountable, but given closest competitor Sam Hornish Jr.‘s failing luck as of late, it may not even matter.
Two years ago, Michael Annett and Steve Wallace drove for Wallace’s father, Rusty, at his two-car Nationwide team. While they’re no longer teammates in 2013, both returned to the Nationwide Series at Charlotte after extended stays away from the track. Annett, who suffered a broken sternum in Daytona last February, managed a 17th-place finish on the lead lap, while Wallace, who was making his first start of the year, only made it into the race because of Jeff Green’s withdrawal and finished 25th.
Charlotte began a 21-race stretch for Nationwide, which means we’ll see these stories and more continue to develop at a fairly solid clip. If you can get around Busch’s dominance, it’s shaping up to be a good battle between Smith and Hornish, both former Cup drivers looking to revitalize their careers. Kevin Rutherford
IndyCar: If You Thought The Indy 500 Was Great… The Indy 500 has, of course been the focus this week, but some important initiatives for the future of the sport were also announced at the track last Thursday. Hulman and Co. CEO Mark Miles and incoming INDYCAR President of Operations and Competition Derrick Walker unveiled plans to open the door for increased technical innovations to the cars and improvements in safety in open wheel racing. The purpose of the technical innovatiosn will be to incrementally increase speeds.
“In the short term, we’ll look for incremental changes to our cars through components such as aerodynamics, horsepower and tires,” said Walker. “In a way, we’re going back to the future. Indy cars have always been about innovation and speed, and our goal is to open the door for that again. We’ll start with our current car platform and give our teams and suppliers more ability to affect how they race. We always have to be mindful of costs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t manage improvements to create more exciting racing and at the same time do it safely.”
It has been 17 years since the one-lap track record of 237.498 mph was set at Indianapolis by Arie Luyendyk, a record Miles and Walker are hoping will be within reach wthin a few years.
Walker said the effort will come from technical staff at INDYCAR, teams, and suppliers, along with support from members of a newly formed Competition Committee. The first of these innovations, likely aero kits, will come soon. Potential safety innovations that could be explored include new types of track fencing to better protect drivers and fans, pit lane precautions, and continued enhancements to driver compartments. Toni Montgomery
Short Tracks: Sprint Car Driver Critically Injured Unfortunately, this is not the first time Short Track pace laps has shared bad news. Friday night at Bloomington Speedway, during the B-Main for the non-wing Sprint Cars, Josh Burton had a horrific crash. His right front tire came off and the remaining suspension dug into the track, causing his car to flip wildly. When the safety crew got to the car, Burton was breathing but unresponsive. He had to be cut from the car and was transported to Bloomington Hospital.
According to Burton’s facebook page, he was continuing to fight but multiple sources, including the Bloomington Speedway, have reported that he lost his battle for life. Every racer climbs into a car knowing it is a dangerous sport. Wingless Sprint Cars are some of the most dangerous vehicles that anyone can race and the consequences when they crash can be dire.
Safety has come a long way in the last 20 years. We continue to see drivers walk away from wrecks that would have claimed lives just a couple of decades ago, but the sport is still dangerous. When a car goes from triple digit speeds to stopped at a very rapid pace, the forces placed on the body can have very devastating effects. When you sit down and watch a race anywhere, any time, don’t forget that there is a price for speed. Godspeed Josh Burton. Mike Neff
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