Two multi-car crashes within 10 laps damages 17 cars and frays emotions
By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
February 27, 2011 5:47 PM, EST
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Carl Edwards
was standing a few yards from his battered No. 99 Ford, lamenting an early end to his day Sunday, when suddenly the garage area at Phoenix International Raceway began filling up with wrecked race cars.
Before the Subway Fresh Fit 500 was even an hour old, no fewer than 10 mangled machines littered the garage, with crewmembers feverishly working either to repair them or make sure they would at least fit into the hauler.
And it all occurred in a span of 17 laps.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne
found the Turn 1 wall on Lap 49, crunching in the rear end of his No. 21 Ford. Then Kyle Busch
and Edwards touched on Lap 60, setting off a multi-car incident that also collected Jeff Gordon
, Jeff Burton
and Kevin Harvick
Edwards, who had led 21 laps, felt like he let an excellent chance at victory slip through his fingertips.
“That’s the car to beat, right there, sitting in the garage,” said Edwards, pointing back at his damaged ride. “That’s the fastest car here. That thing’s unreal. I was just cruising out there, screaming fast. It’s just too good of a race and too good of a race car to be sitting here, watching.”
Edwards still wasn’t clear on exactly how the wreck began, even after watching a television replay.
“My first impression was that Kyle was just frustrated that Ryan got by me and he turned down,” Edwards said. “But I looked at that and it looked like he might have just gotten loose. I’ll talk to him about it.
“Regardless of what caused it, that wreck took the fastest car out of the race. That car is so fast, you guys. It was a joy to drive. I was having a blast. We took two tires and we were screaming, four tires and we were screaming. The thing was just awesome, I feel bad.”
Edwards seemed shocked to be on the sidelines so early, especially with a car he thought was the class of the field.
“I was just out there with a smile on my face, having fun,” Edwards said. “I didn’t see that coming at all. Kyle’s too good a race car driver to slide across like that. But I did just watch the tape and I can’t tell if it was just a misjudgement on his part or just frustrated. It’s just racing. Man, it’s just so frustrating.”
Just as Edwards completed his final thought, the race restarted and more mayhem ensued. Brian Vickers
cut a tire coming out of Turn 2 — perhaps from contact with Matt Kenseth
— and at least 12 other cars were involved, with some suffering heavy damage. The race was red-flagged for 14 minutes to clean up the track.
“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. We all race. Certainly if people are wrecking, it’s too aggressive, there’s no doubt about that. … I thought we had a car that could win this race and we’re sitting here in the garage. It’s real disappointing” — JEFF BURTON
Cars that either made it to the garage under their own power or on the back of a wrecker included Jamie McMurray
, Burton, Clint Bowyer
, Robby Gordon
, Andy Lally
, David Reutimann
and Travis Kvapil
Vickers was able to get his No. 83 Toyota back to the garage, where the crew began replacing the rear axle. Vickers said some of the impatience stems from not wanting to give up precious track position on the tight, flat 1-mile oval.
“It’s a difficult place to pass,” Vickers said. “Track position is very important and all the cars are very even. People just are not willing to give up that spot, and we haven’t had a long run either.
“When you have double-file restarts, yeah, five laps into a run you don’t want to budge from your spot. Twenty-five laps into a run, you get single-file and you start realizing who’s fast and who’s not. We just had a bunch of short runs right here at the beginning of the race.”
Vickers said starting side-by-side on a tight track like Phoenix might have been a contributing factor.
“We used to not start double-file. I don’t have a problem with any of the rules. I think they make it exciting for the fans. But, you know, yeah, you’re going to create other situations because of it.”
Burton was one of those caught up in the melee, and felt drivers were too aggressive, particularly that early in the race.
“I guess you’d have to say yes,” Burton said. “It’s really frustrating for us. I thought we had an incredibly fast car. It seems like we just can’t do anything right right now. We’ll keep our heads up and keep digging.”
McMurray explained what he saw and felt.
“It looked like [Vickers] cut a tire down and it’s really tight back there, a bad place to have a wreck because there’s nowhere to go,” McMurray said. “I was the guy who got slowed down and whoever was behind me wasn’t able to. Once you get hit from behind that hard, you’re just along for the ride.”
Was it too early to be that aggressive? Burton’s answer was yes.
“It’s too hard if people are wrecking,” Burton said. “I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. We all race. Certainly if people are wrecking, it’s too aggressive, there’s no doubt about that.
“I can’t control other people; I can only control us. I’m real proud of how we ran [Sunday]. I thought we had a car that could win this race and we’re sitting here in the garage. It’s real disappointing.”
But McMurray wasn’t sure that incident was caused as much by aggressiveness as by the unusual number of short green-flag runs.
“Normally at Phoenix you get those long runs and it calms down,” McMurray said. “But when you get different pit strategies and guys on different sets of tires, there’s a big discrepancy in speed. The restarts are when you get your passing done.
“That was one of those deals where [two cars] got together and cut the No. 83’s tire down. They were in the first four or five cars and it was just a big wreck. I don’t know that it was from people being overaggressive.”
Burton was able to return to the track on Lap 98, followed by Robby Gordon, Bowyer, Reutimann and Edwards approximately 25 laps later.]]]]> ]]>