As soon as the restart came with 10 laps remaining in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega Superspeedway, it was clear that conditions were ripe for a metal-mangling “Big One” that would change the face of the Aaron’s 499.
Four laps later, the seemingly inevitable came to pass.
Contact on the outside between rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley triggered the multi-car melee, which featured Kurt Busch getting flipped into the air by a skidding Yeley and landing on the hood of Ryan Newman before it was all over.
Newman has been involved in memorable wrecks at Talladega before. In the final lap of the 2009 Aaron’s 499, leaders Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski made contact in the tri-oval that spun the former around and then airborne. Right behind them was Newman, who smashed into Edwards’ flying car and sent it hard into the debris fence in one of the most vicious accidents in NASCAR history.
Perhaps it was both of those experiences that caused Newman to express his frustration after Sunday’s crash in a manner that may wind up getting him in hot water.
“They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls, but they can’t get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the race track, and that’s pretty disappointing,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver told Fox Sports according to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. “I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is.
“That’s no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment…I mean, you got what you wanted but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain. That’s it, thank you.”
Equally disgusted with the outcome was Busch himself, who was decidedly terse in his post-race comments.
“My Mom doesn’t come to four races a year — Daytona and Talladega. Wonder why…” the former Cup champion said to Fox. “Good runs don’t pay well when you finish on the hook.”
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.