Red flags fly at Dover for debris, track repairs
June 01, 2014, Holly Cain and Staff report, NASCAR.com
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DOVER, Del. -- Two red flags were thrown during the first half of Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.
The first came from damage during a big wreck on Lap 134 involving Roush Fenway Racing teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle. At the time, Jimmie Johnson led the race. AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Truex and Landon Cassill were also involved in the wreck.
The second red flag came out shortly thereafter on Lap 161 and lasted 22 minutes and 22 seconds. It followed a Lap 158 caution when Jamie McMurray got into the wall in Turn 2. Track officials came out because a sizable piece of the concrete track came loose and necessitated repairs.
A crew was immediately dispatched to repair the hole -- which according to photographs from television was approximately 6 inches by 8 inches and about 2 inches deep. They poured in Quik-Rok to fill the area. McMurray's Chevrolet also required some work to repair significant damage to its front splitter. Coincidentally, there was a pothole in Turn 4 of Daytona International Speedway in 2010 -- a race won by McMurray.
During the second red-flag delay drivers said they had noticed a problem there prior to Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the track, but there was no issue then.
"It had a black sealer on it so I guess it finally got worn out," Kevin Harvick, the race leader at the time of the second red flag, told the FOX Sports broadcast.
McMurray and his Chip Ganassi Racing team had other questions as well. Crew chief Keith Rodden suggested the team should get its lap back considering the track caused the car's problem, but NASCAR wasn't swayed.
"Ran over the (piece of concrete) and it kind of broke our splitter in half," Rodden said. "Knocked the pan out underneath the car. Hurt the right side a little bit also and then we got into the wall so everyone on this Cessna Chevy SS team is just looking to try to get to work here. Wish we could work on it right now. It's kind of a tough situation we're in and a tough situation NASCAR is in.
"I don't know if we'll get it back to where it was. We finally got our car running really good there and it drove up through a bunch of them. But we'll do the best job we can and see what we get."
Over his radio, Johnson said of the problem spot: "I saw it this morning on the way to the driver's meeting. It was already coming up. I was wondering if they'd seen it."
A pedestrian bridge hanging over the track connecting the parking lot and track infield was closed briefly so inspectors could make sure it was still safe. A piece of debris flew up into the safety glass that covers both sides of the bridge, but track officials say the glass responded as it should and there was no threat of danger.
The first red flag was out for a total of 6 minutes and 39 seconds as cleanup took place on the backstretch for a large amount of debris following the crash.
While making a bold move inside on a restart on Lap 135, Allmendinger collided with Stenhouse Jr. triggering a five-car accident that collected Biffle -- the only one of the most damaged cars on the lead lap.
Stenhouse's No. 17 Nationwide Insurance Ford suffered the brunt of the damage, with Biffle's car also heading to the garage for massive repairs, while Allmendinger was able to continue still a lap down.
"The 47 (Allmendinger) jumped into the inside of us there and I tried to stay out of his way and he clipped me, got him sideways and everything else happened after that," said Stenhouse, who said he was OK despite the hard hit. "Our car was really, really loose all race long and was just trying to hang onto it, definitely didn't want the race to end that way and got our teammates caught up in it and tore up a lot of cars."
Biffle's team worked furiously in the garage to make repairs and keep his streak of no DNFs going. The No. 16 Ford later returned to race 100 laps down and would go on to finish the race.
"Inside of the car I didn’t really know what happened," Biffle said of the accident. "I just knew that the 47 got into us pretty hard and turned us into the fence. After watching the replay I see what happened. They were racing hard back there and he stuck it into a hole that maybe there wasn't room for. There definitely wasn't room to come three-quarters of the way around the corner I guess, and he slid off the bottom and got his right rear caught by the 17 and up into us. It was a chain reaction. This place is tight and fast and when you get racing that hard back there on a restart stuff like that is going to happen."
Biffle finished 38th in the race and now has a record of running at the finish of 85 consecutive races, a record that Herman Beam had held (from April 30, 1961 to March 10, 1963). Biffle's last DNF came in the 2011 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.