Sunday Dover Notebook: Dover pothole bites McMurray
By Seth Livingstone
NASCAR Wire Service
DOVER, Del. — The Monster Mile came up and bit Jamie McMurray. Quite literally.
McMurray was running in the top 15 on Lap 158 when his Cessna Chevrolet struck a chunk of concrete that came loose from the track surface along an expansion joint in Turn 2.
The impact sent McMurray into the wall and triggered a twenty-two minute, twenty-two second red flag race stoppage while crews scurried to repair the track with quick-setting cement.
“Whatever they put in that pothole worked awfully damn well,” said race winner Jimmie Johnson. “Hats off to the track for that fix.”
McMurray went one lap down and rallied to finish 13th. Per NASCAR policy, McMurray, like all other drivers, was not permitted to work on his car during the red flag period.
“Initially, I thought I’d blown a tire out,” McMurray said. “I heard a huge ‘boom.’ It actually pushed the car to the right and I got into the fence a little bit. ... It killed the front end. That pan that is underneath is critical. It definitely took a lot of front downforce off the car, but our guys did a really good job recovering. We salvaged what we could today.”
Although Johnson, as well as Kevin Harvick, said during the race that they had noticed an issue with the track, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development, said no concerns were brought to NASCAR’s attention.
“We have staff at every race that walks the track and checks for things like that,” Pemberton said. “We do a track walk after every race or in the morning. So, if that had been an issue, we weren’t aware.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series competed on the mile track Saturday without incident.
Brad Keselowski, who finished second, said he could feel trouble with the track brewing early in the race.
“I could feel it when I was driving over it,” he said. “You knew it was only going to get worse. If somebody didn’t repair a small hole, it was going to turn into a big hole, and I’ll give NASCAR credit enough to realize that and stop and fix it before a problem like that escalated. I thought the repair was pretty good.”
McMurray’s car wasn’t the only thing damaged. A piece of the cement flew into the air and cracked a pane of glass in the pedestrian crossover. Crews also worked to secure that area.
“The track maintenance department felt it was not going to be an issue,” Pemberton said. Although foot traffic resumed, NASCAR made sure pedestrians were not standing on the bridge.
Originally known as Dover Downs, the track, which features 24-degree banking in the turns, was opened in 1969. Originally paved asphalt, the concrete surface was installed in 1995.
BIFFLE'S STREAK STILL ALIVE
Greg Biffle has been running at the finish of 85 consecutive Sprint Cup races, but the Monster Mile put that record in jeopardy on Sunday.
Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were caught up in a wreck on Lap 135 after A.J. Allmendinger got a bit aggressive on the inside.
Stenhouse got the worst of it, coming down the track and slamming head-on into the inside retaining wall. Although Biffle’s crew was able to repair his 3M Ford, he limped home 108 laps off the pace in 38th place.
“(Allmendinger) stuck it into a hole that maybe there wasn’t enough room for,” said Biffle, whose last did not finish (DNF) came in the 2011 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he suffered engine failure. His last crash-related DNF was in the 2011 Daytona 500.
TOUGH LUCK FOR HARVICK
Kevin Harvick was leading the race when he suffered a broken valve stem and a resulting flat tire on Lap 165, shortly after a restart. Harvick fell two laps off the pace and finished the first car a lap down in 17th place.
“I felt the 4 car, if they didn’t have the troubles they had today, would have been a serious threat,” said Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus.
Johnson concurred: “I think we would have had a heck of a race with the No. 4,” he said.
UPS AND DOWNS
Matt Kenseth, who started 21st and finished third, grabbed the series points lead from Jeff Gordon, who contended for much of the race but finished 15th. Kenseth, the only driver among the top nine in points who is without a victory, leads Gordon by two points and Carl Edwards (14th at Dover) by 25.
Martin Truex Jr. started 16th and battled his way to a sixth-place finish, his second top-10 and best showing this season. “We’re getting closer and closer to finding that sweet spot,” said Truex, whose luck hasn’t been great. His car was hit by a bird during practice on Friday, causing damage to the left headlight area.
Tony Stewart, who started 20th, battled in the top five for much of the final 100 laps, eventually settling for seventh. Denny Hamlin had a positive points day, moving up five spots to ninth. Ryan Newman, who had late-race transmission problems and finished 31st, fell out of the top 10 in points.