Cause of Menard's fiery explosion still unknown
November 18, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Team owner Richard Childress said Monday that his team was still uncertain what caused a pit-road explosion that blasted the No. 27 Chevrolet driven by Paul Menard in the late stages of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Childress, involved in the sport either as a driver or team owner for decades, remarked he'd never seen anything like it.
"No, never have," Childress said Monday at a luncheon before the awards ceremony for NASCAR's Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. "I've seen tires blow out before sitting right there on pit road, but nothing that turned into a fiery explosion. And we don't have the answer to it yet, so it's really hard for me to comment on what happened."
Childress said his team would investigate the incident back at its Welcome, N.C., race shop and report its findings to NASCAR's research and development department.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, spoke with Childress and seconded the team owner's opinion on the violent impact.
"Pretty wild," Pemberton said. "We've had situations in the past where we've had excessive heat buildup in tires and we've melted tires and inner-liners, but that was a pretty unusual set of circumstances and stuff that we can learn out of it. Thankfully, no one was hurt."
Menard's right rear wheel housing caught fire after an earlier failure wrapped shredded rubber around the rear gearing. Multiple pit stops to remedy the problem were fruitless, and the assembly caught fire, forcing Menard to the pits a final time on the 231st of 267 laps.
Once there, his crew stood ready to change tires with one crewman preparing to use a fire extinguisher. Barely a few seconds after Menard had brought the car to a halt, an explosion blew black smoke out of the back end, shaking the 1.5-mile facility but snuffing the fire in the process.
"It caught on fire on the race track and built a lot of heat, tremendous amount of heat -- about like holding a blow torch on it with the wind blowing under the car and everything," Childress said Monday. "It blew the whole hub, brake rotor, everything off of it. It didn't blow a tire, and that's why we've got to find out why it blew everything off the car."
Childress said the impact raised the hood and blew out the car's floorboard. While the damage to the car was severe, Childress said he was thankful that Menard, his crew and nearby NASCAR officials were uninjured.
"That's the first thing I went down there to make sure of, that no one was hurt," he said. "Checked with Paul, he wasn't hurt, but you could tell the concussion from the explosion was so strong that it blew the hood up, blew everything out from inside the car. It was pretty violent. For no one to get seriously hurt, it was a miracle."