In the moments before the green flag for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a NASCAR official reported a wet track in Turns 1 and 2, but race control responded with one lap to go until green.
Kyle Busch took the lead on the opening lap and immediately reported that it was raining, but the race remained green. An overnight deluge meant track officials needed to drill holes into the racing surface to push out weepers before the start the race.
The rain started to pick up throughout the first five laps but before race control could respond with a caution, the leaders crashed in Turn 1 due to a loss of traction, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. incurring a considerable amount of damage.
OH MY GOODNESS.
It started raining at @NHMS and many people, including race leader Kyle Busch, started wrecking. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/N5cAQp8UpK
Their teammate, Denny Hamlin, also spun while racing for fifth and avoided the wall. Thus came the caution and then a resulting red flag.
Busch was so infuriated that he took his damaged race car and drove into the back of the pace car and turned sharply as if to rip the bumper off or spin it out.
This incident comes amidst tension between the drivers and the industry at large with the stars of the sport feeling as though they are not being listened to, communicated with or their voices heard.
” We started the race under a mist – we never should’ve went green to begin with,” Busch said during the NBC Sports broadcast. ” But then it kept getting worse and worse, lap by lap. The lap before, I went into 1 and it shoved the nose really bad and I was able to keep it under control. It wasn’t wet enough.
“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.”
Then came a pause.
“There’s no sense in saying what I want to say. It doesn’t do you any good.”
Truex echoed his teammate’s sentiment by suggesting he had nearly crashed the lap before it actually happened anyway.
Truex said it was like driving on ice.
“I think the 18 and I had it the worst because we were out front,” Truex said. “We’re a half-a-lap ahead of the back of the field so it’s the wettest when we get there. The lap before I went into (turn) one and about did the same thing and I hollered on the radio that the track is wet. Like wet, wet. I tried to back it down and I got in there and it just kept going. I couldn’t even slow it down. At some point you have to turn the wheel and that’s when it spins out.”
Unlike Busch, who suggested he was done for the day, Truex was hopeful to repair the car once the red flag was lifted.
“The rear is not bad, the suspension isn’t bad, but the splitter is on the earth under caution,” Truex said. “A lot of stuff bent up under the left front splitter. Obviously, that’s a critical, important part of the car to get around here fast. Try to get it off the race track and soldier on, but we felt like we were going to have a good car today. It’s a real shame.”
Hamlin said his damage was minimal but also echoed his teammates thoughts about the racing conditions.
“We run slick tires and these cars don’t have any grip on slick tires and wet asphalt,” Hamlin said. “To me, that’s the job of the corner spotter has in NASCAR. They’re sitting over there, they can feel when it’s raining and see when it’s raining. That’s their job to tell NASCAR that it’s raining and we have to stop so we don’t have that situation.
“You always in these situations, you want them to air on the side of not looking bad and this is just a bad look.”
But in this case, the corner spotter did issue a warning that somehow went unanswered.
Hear from @NASCAR EVP and Chief Racing Development Officer @[email protected] // NBCSN pic.twitter.com/jYSoqomOXF
Within moments of the incident, NASCAR vice president of competition Steve O’Donnell joined the NBC broadcast booth and called it an unfortunate moment.
“We can only go kind of off the pre-race discussions we have before the race with Kip Childress, who drives our pace car – constant communication with him before the race starts,” O’Donnell said. “Are we good to go?’ Even the lap before we start, we go green, Kip gave us the all clear to start that race.
“Then as the race started progressing, right before Kyle got loose in Turn 2, obviously in wet track conditions, the communication to us was from the flag stand we’re seeing some mist. In any normal circumstance when 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 Bermann is about to put out the yellow, we look down and the 18 car (Kyle Busch) is already getting loose. I’ve been here a number of years. That’s the first time I’ve seen that in terms of how quickly it came upon us. Certinaly mist, we’ve raced in mist conditions before. The track got slick, obviously, in a hurry and it was unfortunate what took place.”
Slick tires and rain don’t mix.
An unfortunate set of circumstances at @NHMS. Ride on-board with @MartinTruex_Jr as the rain began to fall, leading to a crash for the No. 19 team. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/oyBtAWCDmY
NASCAR faced criticism for a similar incident at Texas Motor Speedway during the playoffs last season when drivers were reporting rain and the caution didn’t come until championship leader Kevin Harvick crashed hard in the wall.
Harvick failed to make the championship race, in part, due to the incident. He hopes to better understand the communication between the corner spotter and race control that led to the incident.
Drivers had told race control during the rain race at Circuit of the Americas that conditions were no longer tenable and those concerns were ignored until after a series of violent crashes due to poor visibility.
“You just rely on NASCAR to do their part and that is to rely on the corner spotters to tell them when the surface is unsafe whether that be for debris, rain, whatever it is,” Hamlin said. “That is their job to do. They can’t see from the tower. They can see the rain, but they don’t know how damp the surface was. That’s the job of the corner official to tell them that. Be interesting to see what communication was being had during that 30 to 40-second period.”
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