NASCAR officials found themselves in the middle of a storm Sunday at New Hampshire, both literally and figuratively.
After overnight rain, the track worked all morning to dry the surface. Even as the pre-race ceremonies track officials were finishing drying the track and working on some “weepers” between turns 1 and 2.
After a couple of extra pace laps and with a light mist falling, Kyle Busch led the field to the green. By lap 6 however, the light mist picked up and going into turn 1 Busch’s Toyota spun and hit the wall. Behind him Martin Truex Jr. also spun but made only light contact with the wall. Denny Hamlin in sixth also spun but avoided contact. NASCAR threw the yellow. When the field slowed, Busch showed his disapproval after putting his window net down by bumping the pace car.
The field was soon brought to a stop on pit road and the red flag was displayed. After the team looked over his car, decided they couldn’t continue.
“It never should have gone green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse lap over lap,” an obviously frustrated Busch said. “The lap before I went into (turn) one and it shoved the nose really bad and I was able to keep it under control. It wasn’t bad enough. The next time I went down there, hell, I lifted at the flag stand – maybe a little past the flag stand, don’t get too dramatic – and just backed it in. We’ve been talking about it for two laps that it was raining. There’s no sense in saying what I want to say, it doesn’t do you any good.”
“We’re done, we’re going home. It’s over. There’s no fixing that thing.”
Shortly after the field was stopped, NASCAR VP and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell went on TV and explained what had happened from NASCAR’s perspective.
“We can only go kind of off the pre-race discussions we have before the race with Kip Childress, who drives our pace car – constant communication with him before the race starts,” O’Donnell said. “‘Are we good to go?’ Even the lap before we start, we go green, Kip gave us the all clear to start that race.
“Then as the race started progressing, right before Kyle got loose in Turn 2, obviously in wet track conditions, the communication to us was from the flag stand we’re seeing some mist. In any normal circumstance when we hear that, our next call is to the pace car, which is in Turn 1 here: ‘Are you seeing anything on your windshield?’ Drops started picking up. Kip communicated that.
“As Tim Bermann is about to put out the yellow, we look down and the 18 car (Kyle Busch) is already getting loose. I’ve been here a number of years. That’s the first time I’ve seen that in terms of how quickly it came upon us. Certainly mist, we’ve raced in mist conditions before. The track got slick, obviously, in a hurry and it was unfortunate what took place.”
Hamlin was able to continue, but like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate wasn’t happy.
“It’s wet,” Hamlin said. “We run slick tires and these cars don’t have any grip on slick tires and wet asphalt. To me, that’s the job of the corner spotter has in NASCAR. They’re sitting over there, they can feel when it’s raining and see when it’s raining. That’s their job to tell NASCAR that it’s raining and we have to stop so we don’t have that situation. You always in these situations, you want them to air on the side of not looking bad and this is just a bad look.”