NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton talks about concrete issue at Dover

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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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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.