Cup Notes: A Rough Night On A Rough Track
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
The aging, bumpy racing surface at Daytona International Speedway went out with a bang. And a boom. And smoke and fire.
Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 was a crashfest. Nine times the caution came out. Red flags came out.
The biggest wreck of the night occurred with 13 laps to go and involved a large contingent of drivers who had at times in the race, led.
Like Juan Pablo Montoya.
“I saw cars piling up in front of me,” Montoya said. “I tried down and clipped with the right front corner. There is nothing you can do. It is just one of those deals. Again, this Target Chevy all season has been amazing. The team has done a really good job. That is the story of our year.”
Jimmie Johnson was taken out in the wreck and that wrecked a string of two straight victories and stalled movement toward the top of the standings.
“You can’t see much from the cars,” Johnson said of the Big One. “I saw the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) down on the flat. Then I was hit from behind and everybody was trying to slow down and just got caught up in things. We came close, I mean, 380-something miles of not having a big one and then we always seem to have that big one at the end.”
Ryan Newman, also caught up in the wreck was also unable to explain how it happened.
“I saw the No. 12 (Brad Keselowski) and the No. 83 (Reed Sorenson) sideways and I couldn’t tell you what else happened,” Newman said. “I just know I got pile-drived. I saw the No. 48 (Johnson) sideways and myself sideways and up on two wheels. Right place, wrong time as usual for me. You know when the No. 48 is sideways, it probably isn’t his fault. All I saw was a blocked race track and I’m on the way to the airplane.”
Was the surface, which crews will start replacing immediately, to blame? Or was it driver error?
“I couldn’t really tell from where I was at,” Johnson said. “I would just be speculating, but the energy inside the draft changes as the laps wind down. We all know that every move you make could be worth five or 10 points on the track in position. You could sense it. We knew it was coming and you could feel it building and sure enough it happened.”
Also involved was Mark Martin. After the crash, his car was turned into a Roman candle.
“The fire was outside, it wasn’t inside,” he said. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked. No big deal. It is a disappointment to be in a wreck as hard as we fought and as hard we worked. My guys did an awesome job battling through things.
“I wish we hadn’t been in that wreck. There was no way. I couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t get down. My spotter said get down. Well, I was going too fast, there wasn’t no getting down. My spotter said get down, but I couldn’t get down. I was going too fast.”
After hours party: The Coke Zero 400 ended just before 1 a.m. Sunday. The action did not end until quite a bit later.
Following the race, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch were seen exchanging angry words in the infield at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch, who finished seventh but was invovled in a number of on-track incidents, said the words concerned a late-race incident.
“Carl turned right after the start-finish line and completely destroyed our car,” Busch said. “We’ve seen him turn right before and destroy a Penske car at Atlanta with my teammate Brad Keselowski. It’s what it is. We could have limped home in seventh and not damaged like that. That was unnecessary.”
Edwards – big surprise – had a different take.
He said he sought out Busch to get some answers afterward.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened, so that’s why I went and asked,” Edwards, who finished sixth, said. “We were just coming to the start-finish line, having a good race, and the 2 car for some reason just turned left and hit me.
“I don’t know if he didn’t know I was there or if he did it on purpose, but it seems like he was just frustrated. We all get frustrated when we have a bad day, so I’m sure it’ll be no big deal.”
Edwards was asked if he got his answer.
“No, he didn’t want to talk, so that’s OK,” he said. “He doesn’t have to talk. I just wanted to see what the deal was.”
Busch whacked: Kyle Busch’s bid for a victory went up in smoke and fire when he was involved in an incident with Montoya.
Leading at the time, Busch appeared to be hooked by the former Formula One driver.
Caught leaving the infield care center just afterward, Busch went sarcastic when asked about the incident.
“The replay shows I turned right across the nose of the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) so apparently I wanted to wreck myself – I don’t know. Some people, they don’t understand what happens in these cars. With the old tires like that I’ve got no grip, I’m barely hanging on sliding around as it is out there. When his air was on my quarter-panel like that it just started turning my car down the straightaway and I was going across the front of his nose and it was all air without him hitting me. I’m sure somehow it’s my fault.”
Asked if he thought he was clear of the 42, Busch said, “No, actually what happens is that nobody really understands in these things is the draft when you’re beside somebody like that they can move you – they have control on your car. And he (Montoya) was too close to my side and it started turning me sideways down the straightaway without even touching me just like I did to Denny (Hamlin) and he started turning before I even got him or the 6 (David Ragan) in practice.
Busch continued, “I was out there on old tires two laps away from pitting and I was lapping the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) and trying to stay away from the 11 (Denny Hamlin). He was going low, I was trying to stay away from him and the 42 was on my quarter panel and his car – the air on both of our cars just started steering me right, right across the nose of his car. I mean, I didn’t turn right to wreck myself. Why would I do that? That’s dumb. We had the fastest car out there. The Interstate Batteries Camry was flying just real unfortunate to be wrecked another week. Another year here in Daytona being the fastest car.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments