By Kelly Crandall (DOVER, Del.) – Prior to Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway some drivers felt the racing surface in Turn 2 was going to be a problem.
Yet none felt it was warranted enough to go to NASCAR officials and as such, on Lap 159 of the 400-lap event the concrete in that corner came up. @JamieMcMurray wound up an innocent victim when a chunk of the track hit the nose of No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet, damaging the splitter area and shooting him into the backstretch wall.
The hole – much like Daytona in February of 2010 – brought out the red flag for 22 minutes as NASCAR officials and workers headed to make repairs. NASCAR vice president of competition and operations Robin Pemberton said he was unsure what the dimensions of the hole were, but called it substantial.
“We do a track walk after every race and in the morning, so at the time that had been a previous patch, but our staff, our crew didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Pemberton said.
Unfortunately for McMurray, his team was unable to repair the car under the red flag. He was also penalized for pitting too soon but fought back for a 13th place finish. NASCAR stuck to the rules that teams are not allowed to repair a car under the red flag, reminiscent of @JeffGordonWeb at Martinsville in 2004.
Gordon had a chunk of the Martinsville surface go through the nose of his Chevrolet while he was running second and even after protests, his Hendrick team was also kept from repairing the machine. The exception to the red flag repair rule, as clarified by Pemberton, was the Coca-Cola 600 last year when the overhead TV cable fell and damaged multiple cars.
Winner @JimmieJohnson was one of the drivers who noted under the red flag that the area which had come apart was one he noticed looked broken early Sunday morning. There was just something about the way that the squares were laid that concerned the now nine-time Dover winner.
“I could see something from afar that just looked like the edge was broken, like the corner was broken on it. I didn’t think much of it,” he said. “There’s countless track vehicles driving around the racetrack, and actually right over the top of it looking at it, and everybody else – I just didn’t think much of it. I saw it from afar and just chalked it up to maybe a bad angle looking at something, because I didn’t drive over the top of it, I saw it from 40, 50 yards away.
“And when I came back around and saw that was the spot, I’m like, no way, that’s what I saw from afar earlier.”
After Sunday’s race restarted on Lap 164 the surface was no longer a problem. The event ran to its scheduled conclusion with no other drivers or teams complaining or suffering setbacks. Officials are prepared for every track with epoxy type filler and it’s used whenever a track needs to be repaired.
“Whoever fixed it did a good job repairing it. It started to come back up at the end, but I didn’t think it was a major issue,” said second place finisher Brad @Keselowski. “It was definitely a major issue at first when it happened. I could feel it when I was driving over it, and you knew it was only going to get worse. If somebody didn’t repair a small hole, it was going to turn into a big hole, and I’ll give NASCAR credit enough to realize that and stop and fix it before a problem like that escalated, which it would very quickly. I thought the repair was pretty good. Yeah, I didn’t really notice it a lot. You could feel it a little bit, but I thought it was probably just right.”
Teams were however, still concerned like @DaleJr.’s, who had a crew member go take a look at the surface to give them a heads up if it appeared to be coming apart again. Earnhardt Jr. wanted to be aware if he needed to change his line. Earnhardt noted under the red flag that the facility should perhaps repave to asphalt and put a tunnel in as well.
“Concrete has been losing the battle for preferred surface on a race track for 60 years. I don’t think they are going to start paving them all with concrete anytime soon,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
“It is okay and I think they got their money out of what they put down here. I would be a little nervous because there are so many joints and joists in this place it’s a lottery on which one is going to come up next. If they repave it, I hope they put asphalt down and we would give the fans a hell of a show around here.”
Martinsville has since been repaved and has had no such issues. Daytona has also been repaved. Pemberton said NASCAR would not recommend anything of the nature to Dover before returning in the fall.
“The track doesn’t want things like this to happen any more than we do or the competitors do, so this isn’t a recommendation. You always go into a facility – things happen, and that’s why we’re trained, we have people that are trained in these types of things, and that’s why the group is able to make repairs in 20 minutes or so,” he said. “You always have to be ready for the emergencies and you don’t have to recommend because everybody wants to have the same perfect race day as they can.”
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