LOUDON, N.H. — Is anyone at NASCAR to blame for what happened Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?
Some drivers and fans likely believe so. But executive vice president Steve O’Donnell apparently believes it was a combination of bad luck and bad timing.
The Foxwoods 301 began under a light mist, which by Lap 6 turned into a downpour that soaked the “Magic Mile” within moments. Almost immediately, pole sitter and race leader Kyle Busch spun out and wrecked out of the race. Martin Truex, in second place at the time, also suffered heavy damage.
Busch was atypically tight-lipped in the aftermath, but his frustration was obvious. Other drivers indicated the race either should’ve started later or been halted at the first sign of precipitation.
During the rain delay, O’Donnell spoke with NBC Sports broadcasters about NASCAR’s decision-making process early in the race.
“Certainly an unfortunate situation of what we just saw,” he said. “But we can only go by the pre-race discussions we have before the race. Kip Childress, who drives our pace car, constant communication with him before the race starts. … The lap before we start and we go green, Kip gave us the all clear to start that race. And then as the race started progressing, right before Kyle got loose in Turn 2, obviously on wet track conditions, the communication to us was from the flag stand that 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, ‘Are you seeing anything on your windshield?’
“Drops started picking up, Kip communicated that. As Tim Burman’s about to put out the yellow, we look down and (Busch) is already getting loose. 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. Certainly, mist, we’ve raced in mist conditions before. But the track got slick in a hurry, and it was unfortunate what took place.”
Obviously, this subject will be debated throughout the week, and likely beyond.
One thing is clear: Between what happened May 23 at Circuit of the Americas, and what happened Sunday at New Hampshire, NASCAR needs to rethink its approach to inclement weather.