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.”
Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth
Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.
He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.
Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.
However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.
“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”
The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.
However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.
“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.
“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”
The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.
AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.
Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.
Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.
“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.
“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”