NASCAR drivers avoid or succumb to 'The Big One'
by ERICH HILKERT
May 07, 2013 | 937 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA—NASCAR drivers cringe at the thought of it. Fans love it. There is a good chance when a race is held at Talladega that ‘The Big One’ will occur.

“It can happen at any time,” Greg Biffle said after the second caution of the afternoon. “You just never know. We were trying to be cautious, but that didn’t work.”

The first caution of the race occurred after Trevor Bayne’s No. 21 car was leaking oil onto the track on lap 23, resulting in five total caution laps from laps 24-28. It was an early end to Bayne’s day, making for a second consecutive disappointing day. On Saturday, Bayne finished 28th overall in the Aaron’s 312 for the Nationwide Series after starting the race in the third spot.

“I got to turn one and it let go,” Bayne said. “I’m surprised the whole field didn’t crash with as much oil that’s pouring out of this thing in the garage, but we were lucky to hold onto it and keep this car in one piece because it’s gonna be fast at Daytona in July. I hate this for our team, but that’s kind of been our luck this weekend.”

Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had received damage to the rear left side of his car when he and Travis Kvapil’s cars grazed each other.

But the first significant caution occurred 42 minutes into the race with a total of 16 cars involved in the wreckage. Kyle Busch hooked Kasey Kahne’s bumper. It was clearly unintentional; simply a matter of a cluster of drivers in a tight spot and Busch misread the situation.

“I know I got in the back of the No.5 [Kasey Kahne] and I guess I was trying to go to the outside of him, but he just moved up in front of me and I wasn’t expecting it and I tried to go to the outside of him and before I could get to the outside of him I got in back of him,” Busch said.

A few drivers were fortunate to avoid significant damage on the first crash, such as Martin Truex, Jr. and Danica Patrick. Even both of those drivers had damage to their cars. Truex, Jr. had damage to his front left tire and Patrick had a crack in her hood, as she narrowly avoided spinning her car out through contact with Busch’s car post-wreck. This occurred after she dodged Jamie McMurray’s car that was headed straight for her. Patrick decided not to finish the Aaron’s 312 after a minor wreck with Kyle Larson. She had little to gain by racing in a Nationwide event, unless she able to capture first place.

Other drivers were not as lucky to avoid the wreck Sunday, such as Biffle.

“I just saw them wrecking above me,” Biffle said. “I thought about going to the left, I had plenty of room and probably should have, but I didn’t. I just stayed straight and moved down all I could and it wasn’t enough. They got me in the right-rear and turned me the wrong way up into the wall, a pretty hard hit, but that’s all you can do is hand on when stuff like that happens.”

The third caution was for seven laps between laps 124-130, due to weather. Eventually, NASCAR brought out the red flag and there was the hours-long delay.

The fourth caution was the least severe with Michael McDowell hitting the outside wall and there were four laps of caution between laps 175-178.

The second big crash occurred on lap 183, and once again a large amount of drivers were involved with some unable to finish the race. A total of 12 drivers were involved, with the event precipitated by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. trying to go four lanes wide with not a whole lot of room and J.J. Yeley blocked him to ensure there wouldn’t be enough room and both cars spun out of control. The worst of the damage actually went to Kurt Busch, who landed on top of Ryan Newman’s car. Patrick, who had so skillfully avoided danger before, was caught up in the second crash. Michael Waltrip, who finished in fourth place, managed to narrowly escape the wreckage.

Following the wreck, there were seven laps of caution between laps 184-190. There were five total cautions with 31 total laps of caution.

Newman was upset, to put it mildly. Those who escaped the two major wrecks were no doubt thankful, but plenty of drivers like Newman left Talladega on a sour note.

“That’s no way to end the race. Our car was much better than that. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment…I mean; you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain.”