Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Wet Track Bites Joe Gibbs Racing Front Runners at Loudon

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The Winston from 20 years ago was replicated in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Unlike that night at Charlotte, backup cars won’t be allowed. Much to the chagrin of both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr., who were the most impacted from Mother Nature.

On Lap 6, Busch and Truex were running 1-2 until rain in Turn 1 caused the track to lose grip. Consequently, both lost control and stuffed into the wall. They weren’t alone as their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also lost control in the chaotic matter.

Outside of those three, Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman also sustained minor damage in that fiasco, but appeared to be the least impacted.

Busch was furious over the ordeal as a shot of winning was taken away. There was no incentive of continuing with a battered No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, he’s going home in total disgust.

How disgusted? Busch proceeded to flip off NASCAR officials and used the chrome horn on the left rear bumper of the Toyota Pace Car, driven by Kip Childress.

“We started the race under a mist. It never should have gone green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse lap over lap,” an irate Busch elaborated. “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.”

While Busch kept his thoughts reserved to avoid trouble, Truex’s was one of several drivers who warned NASCAR about the damped conditions. It was evident when he voiced his thoughts that it was raining a lap prior to the accident.

“It’s just ice. Slicks don’t stick to water. I think the 18 and I had it the worst because we were out front,” said Truex. “We’re a half-a-lap ahead of the back of the field so it’s the wettest when we get there.

“The lap before I went into (turn) one and about did the same thing and I hollered on the radio that the track is wet. Like wet, wet,” Truex continued. “I tried to back it down and I got in there and it just kept going. I couldn’t even slow it down. At some point you have to turn the wheel and that’s when it spins out. I don’t know.”

Unlike Formula One, which also had a red flag for Max Verstappen’s accident following a racing battle against Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone Sunday, NASCAR doesn’t allow repairs. Any repairs must be made when the action isn’t stopped.

Once racing resumes, Truex’s crew intends on repairing the No. 19 Reser’s Fine Foods Camry but the odds of winning is dire.

“The rear is not bad, the suspension isn’t bad, but the splitter is on the earth under caution. A lot of stuff bent up under the left front splitter,” said Truex. “Obviously, that’s a critical, important part of the car to get around here fast. Try to get it off the race track and soldier on, but we felt like we were going to have a good car today. It’s a real shame.”

Due to the conditions worsening, the race was halted on Lap 9. It’s the eight Cup Series stoppage and the first at “The Magic Mile” since 2017.

NASCAR’s Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell explained in the NBCSN telecast about the situation. He mentioned that he spoke with Childress throughout pre-race up until the green flag was dropped. Childress gave O’Donnell the all clear signal to get the race going.

As the weather worsened, O’Donnell asked Childress if the rain has picked up which he agreed. It was at that point where O’Donnell was about to inform the flagman to put out the caution. However, just as he was confirming that, the accident unfolded.

“We looked down and the 18 car was already getting loose,” said O’Donnell. “I’ve been here a number of years. It’s the first time I’ve seen that in terms of how quickly it came upon us. We’ve raced in mist conditions before, but the track got slipped in a hurry. It’s unfortunate what took place.”

Regarding what can be done to improve communications with NASCAR, Busch kept it minimal.

“That’s going to get me in trouble,” said Busch.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.