A chunk of concrete nearly stole the spotlight Sunday from Jimmie Johnson at Dover International Speedway.
Before Johnson had really begun to assert himself and go on to win the FedEx 400, the Sprint Cup race was delayed by 22 minutes to repair a hole in Turn 2.
The problem began when Ryan Newman drove over a small section of track that had begun to come loose earlier in the weekend during Dover’s Truck and Nationwide races. On Lap 159, Newman’s Chevy hit the brick-sized section just right, popping it up onto the track. A split-second later, Jamie McMurray came along and obliterated the hunk of concrete. It also did a number on McMurray’s “splitter” – which runs across the bottom of the front of the car.
“When I came off Turn 2, I heard a huge boom and then the car felt like it got really tight,” said McMurray. “I thought I had blown a tire out or something had fallen off the car.”
The race was halted. It took workers 22 minutes to fill and seal the hole (which was about 3 inches deep by 8 inches wide by 10 inches long) with a quick-drying epoxy that is on hand for every race. They also had to patch a hole in the protective glass of a nearby pedestrian bridge that was hit by flying debris from the McMurray-concrete collision.
NASCAR doesn’t allow cars to be worked on during a red flag. So while the rest of the field waited on the track, McMurray’s Ford sat on pit road with crew members at the ready to make repairs.
“It’s really frustrating when you are sitting in there and you want them to be able to fix it, but it is what it is,” said McMurray, who would finish 13th.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice-president of competition, said he had been told of the crack in the track before the race, but that it appeared to be stable.
“We do a track walk (before) every race and at that time we saw there had been a previous patch,” said Pemberton. “But we didn’t see anything wrong with it.”
Although there were no further incidents with the hole, driver Brad Keselowski said it had begun to come loose again toward the end of the race.
Johnson said he noticed something amiss with the small section of track before the race started, but didn’t think much of it.
“Whatever they put in the pothole, it worked well,” Johnson said.