Cars pile up after wreck on late restart
August 03, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
LONG POND, Pa. -- None of those collected seemed to know exactly what happened. But most agreed there was no place to go when Denny Hamlin spun, setting off a 13-car accident in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
"All I know is the 11 (of Hamlin) got loose out the outside nearly two rows in front of me, and the next thing I know, the 55 (of Brian Vickers) got turned in front of me," said Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard after exiting the infield care center.
"And then there was nowhere to go."
Aric Almirola was likewise unsure of what set off the multicar crash, saying he "watched the replay to see."
"I saw smoke and I saw one car make a hard right into the fence and I knew they were wrecking," the Richard Petty Motorsports driver said. "I just tried to aim for the middle and hoped for the best."
The car of three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart eventually stopped while perched on top of Menard’s No. 27 Chevrolet.
"It started far enough ahead of us that we couldn't see it," Stewart said. We were just coming off of (Turn) 2 there and somebody got sideways and started wrecking … and we got caught up in it.
"I ended up on top of Paul Menard’s hood so it wasn't where we wanted to end up by any means."
The race, stop No. 21 for the series this season, had already had its share of unexpected twists -- Kyle Busch had retired early with engine issues while six-time champion Jimmie Johnson was in the garage after smacking the wall hard with his No. 48 Chevrolet.
The green flag had just reappeared following the caution for Johnson's troubles when Jamie McMurray sped past Hamlin on the low side in Turn 1. As Clint Bowyer moved past on the outside, Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota spun.
Vickers went to the high side to avoid contact, but collected Hamlin's teammate, Matt Kenseth. The cars of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Michael Annett, AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards also were caught up in the incident.
Hamlin said it was an instance of getting caught in the middle of the three-wide racing.
"Just … guys getting runs and guys that can accelerate much faster than what we can, and so that put me three-wide in the middle," he said.
"The 15 (Bowyer) was right on my door and is sucked me around and I was just hanging on at that point. I think it was mayhem from everyone checking up from behind. … I just got sucked around."
Hamlin escaped with little to no damage done, eventually finishing ninth. Few others were as fortunate although no drivers were injured.
"We're all just fighting for positions on restarts because we can't pass after you get three laps on your tires," he said. "These cars put such a big wake in the air you just can't overcome it."