NASCAR officials had a very concrete mindset that conditions would be ideal for racing when Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks began at Dover International Speedway.
Unfortunately, about 159 laps into the 400-lap event, a softball-sized piece of concrete worked its way loose from the surface and bounced right into the front end of Jamie McMurray’s car.
The chunk not only left a football sized pothole right in the middle of the exit of Turn 2, debris from contact with McMurray’s car flew upward and cracked several panes of glass on the crossover pedestrian walkway from the grandstands to the infield.
As a result, the race was red-flagged for more than a half-hour as repairs were made on the racetrack (essentially a patching job) and the crossover.
After the race, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing operations Robin Pemberton discussed the situation with the media.
Here are excerpts from the transcript of Pemberton’s comments:
Q. A few drivers said over the radio that they saw problems with (the track) this morning. Were any of those concerns brought to you or any of the NASCAR officials?
PEMBERTON: 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.
Q. Could you talk about the decision not to let the cars work under the red flag, especially Jamie (McMurray)?
PEMBERTON: Yes. We’ve had issues of things like this in the past, and Martinsville comes to mind, some other things similar to that, and our policy is not to let them work on the car. You may remember when we had an equipment failure, broadcast equipment failure, sometime back, and that affected the entire field of race cars, and at that time we did red flag and we did allow the teams to fix the damage that was caused by that equipment failure. But that is our normal policy, to not allow teams to work on their cars.
Q. Just to be clear about what Jimmie (Johnson) and (Kevin) Harvick said, they both said they had seen the problem or at least the possibility of a problem earlier, but there was no contact between any of those people and you guys?
PEMBERTON: No, there’s a staff at every racetrack that goes and walks and checks for things like that. When they did their check, either post-race or this morning, they did not see a problem with that.
Q. Can you talk about how the actual repair was made, the materials used?
PEMBERTON: We have equipment and we have product at every facility. Facilities keep it on hand. We do bring extras in case there is a need for it, but it is an epoxy type filler that we use, and it’s basically the same filler that’s used any time we make a repair at the track, whether it be asphalt or concrete.
Q. How big did the hole turn out to be? Can you give us any dimensions?
PEMBERTON: It was two or three inches deep, and six or eight inches by maybe 10 inches or something like that, so it was pretty substantial.
Q. There was also some issue with the crossover walkway with the glass there. Was that ever a concern
PEMBERTON: When we were notified about that, the track maintenance department went up and looked at it. They felt that it was not going to be an issue. They kept personnel on the bridge for the rest of the race. They also put tape on or duct tape to try to secure to help with the vibration, but they did not feel it was going to be an issue. … What they did do, they just made sure nobody was standing on the bridge.
Q. Will NASCAR make recommendations to make sure that the track is going to be okay for the Chase race this fall?
PEMBERTON: Well, 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. I mean, you always go into a facility — things happen, and that’s why we have — 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.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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