Early wrecks cause teams to scramble for cars
February 17, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Mark Martin surveyed the scene and summed it up succinctly.
“We didn’t get very far, did we?” the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said after getting caught up in a nine-car crash during The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Not very far at all, just 14 laps complete and then the typical chaos that so often ensues when NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series attacks the high banks of Daytona or Talladega superspeedways.
For Martin, 54, it was the second time in as many days that his blue on white Toyota Camry had come off the track the worse for wear and tear.
“That one’s finished,” crew chief Rodney Childers said of the team’s entry in the Saturday night event, adding that team officials would have another car brought down for the remainder of the Speedweeks activities.
And there’s plenty left. Plenty of time on the 2.5-mile track means plenty of opportunities for teams to dial the cars in and miscues to dial them right back out. Three more days of practice remain, as well as the Budweiser Duel qualifying races scheduled for Thursday.
Those damaged were event-specific cars, built to run in the 75-lap non-points race, then eventually cycled back into the teams’ speedway programs for use at a later date. They aren’t earmarked specifically for this week’s Daytona 500.
Still, with all the remaining track time, one incident could leave a team wondering “what if?”
“We’ve seen in these practices, if something happens, then we’d have to get out a backup car,” Doug Duchardt, vice president of development for Hendrick Motorsports, said. “You need something in case, because Thursday you have the 150s to race and you have Friday and Saturday practice.”
Hendrick teams underwent varying degrees of demolition Saturday night as Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were caught up in the initial incident while Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered minor damage due to contact late in the race.
Those three cars were sent back to the shop to be repaired if possible, to be replaced if not.
“We repair those cars as an insurance policy,” Duchardt said. “If we don’t end up using them, then we have those available for Talladega and then you can decide how to manage your fleet of three speedway cars through the rest of the year.”
Much like Martin, former Cup champion Kurt Busch was tallying up his losses after two days of on-track activities that cost his Furniture Row Racing team two cars.
“Two days, two wrecked cars and only a few laps completed,” Busch said. “It’s been a disappointing start to say the least. But the good news is that we’ve had fast cars.”
Team owner Richard Childress, whose RCR organization has a technical alliance with Furniture Row, said his group would “help them in any way we can” and that it was likely one of the two damaged FRR cars would be repaired and returned by the start of the new week.
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