Martinsville insider (cont.)
3. The short track of Martinsville can deliver some hard impacts. Although it's a flat, half-mile oval unlike the high-speed, high-banked superspeedways that take up most of the dates on the Cup schedule, don't be fooled into a false sense of security. Like all tracks, there is an element of danger, even on the shortest of short tracks.
That came in a massive two-car crash on lap 221 involving Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex, Jr. The calamity ensued when the throttle on Truex's Toyota stuck wide open and into the wall, destroying both cars in one of the hardest impacts ever seen at this short track. The damage to the SAFER Barrier was so bad the race was red-flagged. Speculation had the throttle hanging up on Truex's Toyota. He hobbled over to Kahne's crippled car to make sure that driver was OK.
"We had a throttle stuck wide open -- not sure why," Truex said. "We went off to go into Turn 3 and it was stuck to the floor. Not much you can do at that point. It was, `Oh man, this is going to hurt. It didn't hurt at all. Unbelievable, isn't it? Thanks to all the guys that built the SAFER Barriers because 10 years ago I wouldn't be standing here. It was a rough day right there. We were just trying to survive and we sure didn't need that. There is nothing you can do but lock the brakes up. As unfortunate as it was that Kasey was involved, he really helped slow my car down and I hit him. It was probably a blessing. I hate that it took him out."
Kahne's day was over but he was no injured in the crash.
"We got behind on the start with the tires not leaving rubber and that put me too far back," Kahne said. "Usually you get hit here and spin and somebody is mad but in that case I knew that the throttle had stuck or something on Martin's car. He drilled me through the wall and then he follows with his, 'Pretty good wreck. Just a bad day.'"
The race was stopped for 24 minutes, 55 seconds.
"That's probably the hardest impact I've seen in a Cup car here," said Martinsville president Clay Campbell, who's witnessed more than 30 years of racing at this track. "I have not seen worse but I've seen impacts with worse results. Since the SAFER Barrier that is the hardest impact that I've seen here."
4. Kyle Busch has taken over the points lead. Busch was the class of the field, taking the lead six times in the first 151 laps, and then passing Earnhardt with 20 laps to go. Busch's Toyota would eventually finish third, but it was good enough to advance three positions in the standings to become the leader by five over Carl Edwards.
Busch appeared well on his way to his first Cup win at Martinsville, but on this short track, don't count your checkered flags until they're waving.
"We had one of the best runs here we have ever had, and I probably had the best car here today," Busch said. "Unfortunately I just didn't win with it. Coming down to the last run of the race here, kind of a short run, and we just didn't quite have the car to do it on a short run. Every time we had the lead off pit road, we lost it and took about 28 laps to get going again.
"I think the last run was about 28 laps and that's when I started catching those guys a little bit. They were racing. They were battling but we did get back up to them. I probably would have had something to beat them with, but can't seem to find speed at Martinsville when it matters most."
Busch, one of NASCAR's fiercest competitors, took this loss hard. But with his newfound maturity and raceday savvy, he's likely a serious contender for his first Cup title.
5. Tired of talking tires. For the second time in the last three races, NASCAR had another tire issue with the Goodyear Racing Tires at Martinsville. It was essentially the same problem that happened at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, as the tires were not "rubbering in" to the race track, turning to rubber dust particles instead.
It was the second time that Goodyear changed tire compounds for a short track without any tire testing. Unlike the Bristol incident, however, Goodyear did not change tire compounds once an issue developed, essentially telling the competitors to, "Have at it, Boys."
There were several cut tires in Sunday's 500 laps of competition but no serious incidents.
"I thought the tires pretty much performed like they ended up performing today," Earnhardt said. "We really had a lot of marbles and nobody wanted to be in the second groove. Everybody was chopping each other really hard to get to the bottom. I don't really recall that being quite the norm here in the past. I think guys were a little more -- a little more less anxious just to be on the bottom. In the past, guys were more apt to run corners side-by-side and try to race guys there on the inside of them, but today was not the case. If you got inside of somebody, you pretty much got the position; so guys were all diving to the bottom of the racetrack trying to cut each other off and stuff. That was pretty interesting.
"The tires were a product of that, and the track didn't rubber up, in my opinion. Somebody might try to tell you it did, but I don't think it did; not what we are accustomed to seeing."
This is an issue that NASCAR must correct soon because there is too much at stake to be ruined by a faulty tire.