Pack racing was common on Saturday evening at Kentucky Speedway in the NASCAR Southeast Series. The cars, who run restrictors, seemed to stay in a packs of two-by-two and sometimes three-by-three five and six rows deep.
Unfortunately, the pack racing made for some close and scary moments. The first of which occurred on lap six.
Chris Davidson was racing side-by-side with Jason Hogan for fifth place when Davidson got loose, spun and slid up into the side of Hogan's car, putting them both into the wall. Daniel Mientka and AJ Frank were also involved.
“Jason and I were racing,” said Davidson. “We went in side-by-side and I just got the air taken off of my spoiler and around it went. It wasn’t intentional and it was nobody’s fault. We just touched wheels and around it went from there.”
“I am pretty sure of what happened with Chris,” said Hogan. “He just got loose and came up and got into us. It was just on from there. I knew it was nothing intentional. There is nothing you can do about it.
“When these cars get out from under you, they get out from under you.”
The margin for error at a fast track like Kentucky is almost non-existent as Davidson found out.
“As fast as we are going here and as forced down that we have these cars, you get them a little off the right line and there is noting you can do to the car,” added Davidson. “We were ok just wiggling. Once we touched wheels it was all gone from there.”
There was plenty of other action around him as Davidson was far from the last victim of the race.
“Jeff Fultz and those guys were beating and banging more than we should on a short track, let alone on a big track like this,” said Davidson.
“We were just content to ride around early. I guess I should have gone.”
Despite the trouble, Hogan was encouraged by his team’s performance. He just wishes that they could have showcased it better.
“I hate to tear up a good car, but at least now we have something
Chris Davidson's car gets loaded onto the rollback after the big crash at lap six. (51 Photo)
to work with,” said Hogan. “We’ve struggled here at Kentucky really bad, but now we’ve got the package together and we have something to build off of.”
Frank was about to make a couple of more laps and finished 24th. Hogan finished 25th, Davidson 26th and Mienka 27th.
BIG WRECK NUMBER TWO HAPPENS ON LAP 40
The race fell under caution yet again for a multi-car wreck on Lap 40 when the JR Norris made contact with Gary Helton. Helton and Norris both spun and the ensuing accident collected up Erik Darnell, Greg Pope and Wayne Bowen. The race was red flagged again to help clean up the debris.
Helton, Pope and Bowen all retired from the race due to damage from the incident. Darnell was able to make It back out for a few more laps. Despite heavy damage to all the cars, all of the drivers involved were examined and released from the speedway infield care center.
Jason Hogan walks away from his battered car after the accident. (51 Photo)
“I got into Gary Helton there and I didn’t mean to,” said Norris. “I really didn’t mean to. I will apologize until the day I die but I didn’t mean that at all. It happened and it took some good cars out.”
The #5 car had a fair amount of cosmetic damage and he had to give up more track position to pit and have his crew look the car over, but he got out of the incident relatively unharmed.
“The No. 5 car was too impatient and turned us into the wall,” said Robbie White, Helton's crew chief.
Erik Darnell (center) walks back towards his car after checking on Greg pope during the second big accident of the night. (High Sierra Photo)
“Someone just lost it,” said Darnell of what he saw. “I’m disappointed. We had a good car and thought this was our chance to redeem ourselves after running out of fuel in the last race (here in June).”
“You can’t get away from anyone racing this way. You aren’t racing anyone. You are racing the track. It is just a pack of cars. When you have that that stuff is going to happen.”
Pope was having his best career speedway race, a race that even saw him lead several laps.
“I had it missed,” said Pope, still smiling even after the accident. “The 5 car (Norris) turned and tried to miss the 86 car (Helton). I guess they touched. I went to the outside. I didn’t have a choice and someone just clipped me in the left rear and when that happened, it spun me around.
“That was a good car. I was having a lot of fun out there. We've run good. The car didn’t’ seem like it ran very good by itself, but it could suck up on anyone in the draft real well. It really would get going then. It is just one of them deals.”
“I came up off of two and just saw three cars sideways,” added Bowen. “I checked up and think I got through two of them but the other one got me. I bounced off the fence and took a ride. It was quick. It happened so fast.”
Bowen, who is fighting for a spot in the top-10 and a trip to Irwindale Speedway, also had a great car and was running competitively in the top-five at the time of the accident.
“I was just riding. I was trying to follow the line. I was just trying to fall in behind some guys and ride my way up there. Oh well. I guess we have some work to do before Nashville.”
Wayne Bowen (center, gray shirt) stands next to his nearly totaled race car. (51 Photo)
FULTZ'S WILD NIGHT
Jeff Fultz loves Kentucky Speedway. He's won at the track three times and finished second twice. And the track is just minutes from his original home base of Cincinnati (OH). But Fult'z night Saturday was anything but spectacular.
It started on lap one when Fultz, who sat on the pole, slid up the track in turn three and four and banged with outside polesitter Erik Darnell. T hat opened the door up for Ray Skillman, who grabbed the lead.
During the first round of stops following the first big accident, Fultz pitted with ignition box problems. After several stops, the SES points leader had to work his way from the back to the front again.
Fultz then got together with Robert Richardson while both were avoiding the spinning car of JR Norris. Fultz thought Richardson got into him. Richardson said Fultz came down on him. Either way, both driver had to pit for body damage as result of the contact and both had to start at the back of the field again.
Fultz was trailing a lot of tire smoke after he and Robert Richardson got together. (High Sierra)
Things finally went sour for Fultz when, while running third, he his a piece of lead that he thought came out of the second-place running JR Norris car. The led went right through the front of Fultz's radiator, dumping water all over the track. Fultz barley kept it off the wall, but teammate Kevin Prince hit the water and slammed into the wall.
Fultz retired from the race after the final incident.
“The car was good at the beginning,” said Fultz. “The car wouldn’t run, so we had to come in and switch the wires so it would run. I had to kind of block and hold my own until that first yellow.
“We came back through there good and the 33 (Richardson) got me in the rear quarter panel. So we had to come back in.
We still had a good car. I really wanted to try to finish it here in front of the home people. Then JR dropped the lead. It went right through the car. I did all I could to keep it off the wall. That is part of it. That stuff happens.”
NORRIS SURVIVES WILD NIGHT
J.R. Norris survived a tough and wild race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday afternoon in the Kentucky 150
The piece of lead destroyed Fultz's radiator.
NASCAR Southeast Series event. He spun, he ran over debris and was even smack in the middle of a big wreck, but somehow the rookie driver managed to get through the trouble better than his closest competitors did. In the end, Norris wound up second and moved within grasp of the National Championship points lead heading into the series' finale next weekend.
“I don’t know what the deal was. The last time we were here the cars weren’t that bunched up, but this time there were cars left and cars right,” said Norris, referring to the race, which played out much like a NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Daytona or Talladega with two-by-two racing as far as the eye could see. “It was wild. That really surprised me and there were a lot of cars that got beat up.
Norris started fifth and had moved up to third on lap 22, when he spun in turn four. He avoided hitting anything, but lost a lot of track position. Still, Norris kept trucking on. He worked his way back up through the field, but got together with Gary Helton while battling for a spot in the top-three.
The misadventures still were not over for Norris and his team. Late in the event, after working back towards the front of the field again, he ran over a large piece of debris just after making a pass for second. This caused minor damage to his machine, as well as the car of point leader Jeff Fultz, who was following JR and ran over the debris just afterwards.
“I hit some lead there at the end of the race and it shot back into Fultz’s car,” said Norris. “You can see on the front of my car where it hit. That killed my downforce
Norris (#5) races with Greg Pope (#63). (51 Photo)
there at the end. I never saw it, but I heard it.”
Even more important was the ground that Norris made up to point leader Fultz. Only 67 points separate the two drivers. If Fultz stumbles in the season finale at the Music City Motorplex, Norris will be ready to jump from the role of a rookie to that of a champion.
“I guess we just take what we got here and go one to next week,” said Norris. “We made up some ground in the points so we just got to go and see what we can do next week.”