Teammates among tangling drivers as tempers flare
March 30, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Two chaotic attempts at a green-white-checkered finish for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series seemed to be a fitting climax for a hectic day full of 750 -- make that 756 -- laps of racing at Martinsville Speedway. By the time the second race of the NASCAR doubleheader ended at dusk Sunday, a pair of teammates were just two of the drivers with burbling tempers amid the crumpled truck bodies.
Matt Crafton roared away to claim his cherished first grandfather clock trophy in the Kroger 250, but mayhem was stirring behind him at the checkered flag. German Quiroga barreled to a seventh-place finish, but used a power move at the expense of his Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters in the final turn of the final lap of the nightcap.
Peters expressed his displeasure by pushing Quiroga's No. 77 Toyota toward the first-turn retaining wall. The two teammates exchanged more hard bumps on the backstretch before finally parking their damaged trucks.
"I don't know what happened with Timothy," said Quiroga, a Mexico native in his second full season in the Truck Series. "He pushed me all the way against the wall (after the finish), and I wanted to make clear that we're teammates. I even let one of my teammates go in front of me in the middle of the race, so I don't get it. I think we're going to fix that very easy."
For Peters, a 10-year veteran who claimed the first of his seven career Truck Series wins at Martinsville, the post-race actions were the culmination of an unfortunate series of events in the final two-lap shootout. Lined up second for the final restart in the less-preferred outside lane, Peters was pushed out of shape by eventual runner-up Darrell Wallace Jr. and kept losing spots in the traffic jam.
The final coming-together with Quiroga cost him a shot at his second straight top-five finish to open the season.
"He's got a lot to learn," said Peters, who led a race-high six times for 49 laps but settled for sixth place. "I've been in this deal long enough that I need some respect and he's definitely got a lot to learn. I don't care if he's my teammate or not, he's going to respect me."
Peters wasn't the only driver upset with Quiroga. Early leader Ron Hornaday Jr. collided with Quiroga early in the race, forcing the four-time series champ to rally from his late-race spin.
The two have a history of confrontation, with Quiroga claiming he owed Hornaday retaliation after their run-in last season at the series' inaugural race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. But Quiroga said that Sunday's contact was unintentional, relaying that to Hornaday when the two faced off in the garage after the race.
"Was that a payback, or what was it?" Hornaday asked.
"It wasn't a payback," Quiroga said. "It's just a race. ... Whatever, Ron."
Quiroga, making just his third start at the 0.526-mile track, got sage advice from a crewmember after the dust settled: "It's Martinsville, everybody leaves mad." But Quiroga seemed satisfied with the result, even though it took several tense late-race moments to achieve it.
"We were a little bit off at the start of the race, but we had the truck," he said. "I was coming pretty decent and they started pushing and hitting me, so I started defending myself. So what can I say? It's tough. Everybody's trying very hard. You can see wrecks everywhere, but at the end, it's like you can't let go. Everybody's pushing everybody else, so it's not like I'm going to let everybody go. ... I just defended myself and we did the right calls."