NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mother Nature Strikes Early, Chaos Ensues at New Hampshire

Five laps. That’s how many circuits the NASCAR Cup Series was able to complete in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before mayhem struck on Sunday (July 18).

Kyle Busch, leading from the pole, spun around in turn 1 and backed into the wall. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., went around in tandem with the No. 18 from second place. Their JGR compatriot Denny Hamlin also went for a spin behind them but avoided damage.

The race went green despite some minimal weepers near the apron of the track, but all of a sudden a light mist set in and sent the three Toyotas spinning from the top 10. Ross Chastain‘s No. 42 also took a small bit of damage to his left rear quarter panel.

Busch, unhappy with NASCAR’s handling of the start, tailed the pace car and lightly tapped its rear bumper before coming to pit road, also making his feelings known as he drove by under caution by flipping the bird out of his window. The rest of the field circled the oval several times before being brought down pit road and put under red-flag conditions. Busch parked in his pit stall and got out, signaling the day was done for the team.

“We started the race under a mist,” Busch said in an interview with NBC. “It never should’ve went green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse, with lap with lap. I went into [turn] 1 and it shoved the nose really bad. I was able to keep it under control, it wasn’t wet enough, and then the next time I went down there – hell, I lifted at the flag stand, maybe a little past the flag stand, don’t get too dramatic – and just backed it in. We’d been talking about it for two laps, that it was raining.”

Busch paused and chuckled sarcastically.

“Just no sense in saying what I want to say. Doesn’t do you any good.”

“I mean, we’re done,” he added. “We’re going home. It’s over, you know? There’s no fixing that thing.”

Busch smiled tersely when asked about communication between drivers and the tower and restrained himself when answering.

“That’s gonna get me in trouble,” he said.

NBC then talked to Busch’s teammates Truex and Hamlin.

“It was just ice,” Truex said. “Slicks don’t stick to water. Obviously, the [No.] 18 and I had it the worst, because we were out front and half a lap ahead of the back of the field. So it’s the wettest when we get there. Glad before I went into [turn] 1 and about did the same thing [Kyle did], I hollered on the radio that the track is wet. Like, wet wet. I tried to back it down and I got in there, it just kept going. Couldn’t even slow it down. At some point, you gotta turn the wheel, and that’s when it spins out.

“I don’t know. […] [This is] one of my favorite tracks, and now we’re out, so I don’t know. We’ll be able to get some work done, but it’s not pretty.”

The damage wasn’t as severe as Busch’s, but the No. 19 limped back to the pits. The most notable damage was his left front tire getting stuck in its wheel well.

“The rear’s not bad,” Truex said. “The suspension’s not bad. The splitter was on the earth under caution, so got a lot of stuff bent up under the left-front splitter. So obviously a critical part of the car to get around here fast, try to get it off the racetrack to soldier on. But we felt like we were gonna have a good car today, so it’s a real shame.”

Truex has finished in the top 10 at New Hampshire in each of the past six races there, but has yet to score a Cup win in the Granite State.

Hamlin didn’t suffer a ton of damage.

“A little bit, but I don’t think it’s detrimental or anything like that,” he told NBC. “We were fortunate. I think we were just far enough up the field to be in the wreck, but far enough back where I saw the leaders wrecking and was able to check up my brake point 100 feet, which kept us out of the wall, which was fortunate and unfortunate. So we’re gonna be fine.

“These cars don’t have any grip on slick tires and wet asphalt,” he added. “To me, that’s what the job of the corner spotter has in NASCAR, they’re sitting over there [and] they can feel when it’s raining. That’s their job, to tell NASCAR that ‘it’s raining, we got to stop.’ We don’t want to have that situation, so in these situations you want to err on the side of not looking bad. And this is just a bad look.”

Hamlin was asked how quickly the weather set in, given that it hadn’t been as bad the lap before.

“Yeah, but we had a 30-second warning or more because there were cars sliding up the racetrack the lap before,” Hamlin said. “The rain had not slowed down, it picked up, so it’s only going to get worse.

“You just rely on NASCAR to do their part and that is rely[ing] on the corner spotters to tell them when the surface is unsafe, whether it be for debris, rain, whatever it is, right? That’s what their job is to do. They can’t see it from the tower – I mean, they can see the rain, but they don’t know how damp the surface is. That’s what the job of the corner official is, is to tell them that. [I’d] be interested to see what communication was being had during that 30-to-40-second period.

Later, NBC broadcasters Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton talked to NASCAR executive vice president and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell about the situation in the booth.

“Certainly an unfortunate situation of what we just saw,” O’Donnell said. “But we can only go by the prerace discussions we have before the race. Kip Childress, who drives our pace car, [we had] constant communication with him before the race starts: ‘Are we good to go?’ Even the lap before we start, we go green, Kip gave us the all clear to start that race.

“And then, as the race started progressing, right before Kyle [Busch] got loose in turn 2, obviously on wet track conditions, the communication to us from the flag stand was ‘We’re seeing some mist.’ In any normal circumstance where we hear that, our next call is to the pace car, which is in turn 1 here. ‘Are you seeing anything on your windshield?’ Drops started picking up, Kip communicated that. As Tim Berman was about to put out the yellow, we look down and the [No.] 18 car’s already getting loose. I’ve been here a number of years and that’s the first time I’ve seen that in terms of how quickly it came upon us. We’ve raced in mist conditions before, but the track got slick in a hurry and it was unfortunate what took place.”

O’Donnell was asked what NASCAR was planning on doing going forward.

“A lot of times, we’ll be on scanners, we’ll be monitoring scanners during the race as well,” he said. If we hear a lot of chatter from spotters, obviously, we take that into consideration as well. When we go back out, we’ll make sure with the pace car – not only hearing from them but the spotters. You’ll see us doing this all the time; two thumbs up, two thumbs down as when we’re gonna go, we’ll put that back in place as well.”

Letarte then asked about NASCAR’s plans for the rest of the afternoon.

“I need to get back over and check with our guy, I know there’s some discussions that have been going on,” O’Donnell said. “But I’ll get back over to race control and see where we’re at on that.

“[Drivers] always play a role in it, so we’ll be talking to the drivers during the week. That was our normal process, obviously, in this time. We had some challenges with what just happened, but the communication from our standpoint was really quick: from the flag stand to the pace car. We’ll just employ some more things up in the spotters’ stand and make sure that that communication continues in as real-time as possible.”

Drivers were called back to their cars around 5 p.m. ET. In the meantime, Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie threw around a football on the frontstretch with fans and New England Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olzewski.

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Bill B

A repeat of the Kevin Harvick deal from last year. At least it didn’t cost Kyle his championship hopes. Shame on NASCAR for not being proactive in stopping the race when there was obviously a lot of moisture around. I feel sorry for Kyle but at the same time….as Nelson Muntz would say… Haw Haw!

Carl D.

Agree. I hate to see any driver be the victim of bone-headed officiating, but I can’t argue with Karma. Also it was good to see the Fords run more competitively, though I think you can attribute that to handling, not horsepower.

Christopher

NASCAR’s continued blundering with start times keeps biting them in the butt. If the race had started at 1PM, as God and Big Bill France intended, this would not have happened. NASCAR is so beholden to the TV paymasters that’s it’s really Fox and NBC who are running the sport at this point.

darby

TV runs all sports. The Brewers baseball game was rescheduled due to conflict with the NBA finals in the same city.

Christopher

The NFL, the largest, most watched sport in the US, has consistent start times regardless of what network has broadcasting rights. NASCAR, on the other hand has moved start times around to accommodate whatever the networks want, even though it continues to adversely affect races. So, no, TV does not ‘run all sports’.

darby

Early Sunday NFL games start at 1:00 om Eastern so that TV can schedule the late games for 4:25 Eastern time. That’s part of the TV contract. Night games start at 8:15 Eastern regardless of where the game is played, so that when a night game is on the West Coast, it starts at 5:15 pm local time. Yes, it’s consistent, but only because it works out well for the networks, even though local markets might prefer an earlier or later start time. Plus NFL games are more predictable in length since they play in virtually all weather. Furthermore, if you don’t think TV timeouts are part of NFL football, you obviously haven’t watched any games.

Anyone who believes TV does not control sports is living in an alternate universe.

And finally, as the biggest sport in the U.S., the NFL has more leverage than a niche sport like NASCAR has ever had or ever will have. But they still have to do what TV wants them to do.

Lynne

Shouldn’t Busch be penalized for tapping the pace car?

Mr Yeppers

In any other sport (other than WWE) it’s off limits to touch an official. So I think he should have been.

WJW Motorsports

That and driving with the window net down.. NASCAR typically doesn’t issue those until Tuesdays.. I’d say based on TV highlighting it, they will have to fine him.

Lynne

Yes, the window net as well. He should be fined, or it sets a very bad precedent.

darby

NASCAR has already said they will deal with Kyle’s behavior this week. I expect no more than a slap on the wrist. Everybody making a big deal out of nothing just because it was Evil Kyle rather than your favorite driver.

J. Barton

Worst part of this is under the current format with no qualifying it not only messed up this race but will lead to bad starting spot next race and whatever consequences that could bring.

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