After a brief pop-up shower derailed Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch, as well as made a significant impact on the day for teammates Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin, NASCAR’s Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell joined the NBC Sports booth, to discuss how the situation played out and subsequently, the sanctioning body’s reaction.
The accident in question took place on the seventh lap of the 301-lap event, equating to approximately three and a half minutes after the sanctioning body was given the go ahead from pace car driver Kip Childress, in terms of the track’s conditions and the ability to race on said surface.
However, what started out as a mist, developed into a steady rain, which made the track slick heading into the first corner. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr sustained heavy damage through outside wall contact, while Denny Hamlin and others around him made some contact that caused minor damage to their vehicles.
As expected, Busch was not pleased…. and he made that fact known, by making contact with the pace car – driven by Kip Childress — under caution, causing some damage to the Toyota Camry XSE, as well as making a certain gesture to the flagstand while coming back around with his totaled Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry.
Despite the seemingly high-level of outrage surrounding the entire situation, O’Donnell seemed reasonably pleased with the speed in which NASCAR was able to throw the caution, noting that in all his years of working in the sport, he has never seen a situation in which the rain has approached and started falling in such a rapid manner.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 18, 2021
“We can only go by the pre-race discussions thats we have before the race,” O’Donnell further explained. “Kip Childress, who drives our pace car, constant communication with him before the race starts, ‘are we good to go?’, even the lap before we go green.
“Kip gave us the all clear to start the race and then as the race started progressing, right before Kyle [Busch] got loose in turn two, obviously on wet track conditions, the communication from the flag stand was that we’re seeing some mist,” O’Donnell continued. “In any normal circumstance where we hear that, our next call is to the pace car, which is in turn one, ‘are you seeing anything on your windshield?'”
O’Donnell further explained that the rain drops started to pick up, and by the time that NASCAR was about to throw the caution flag, Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry broke loose into the first corner, making significant contact with the outside wall.
“A lot of times were on the scanners, we’ll be monitoring the scanners as well, if we hear a lot of chatter from the spotters, obviously we take that into consideration as well.”
At the time, O’Donnell said that there were discussions about a set of special circumstances for the drivers and teams involved in the accident caused by Mother Nature, but at the time of publishing, there had been no official declaration either way.
However, this bizarre start to Sunday’s event at New Hampshire comes at a time of strained communication between the drivers, teams and the sanctioning body, after many high-caliber drivers expressed their concerns with the decision to not consult drivers on the reconfiguration plans for Atlanta Motor Speedway, which were announced mid-week last week.
Yet, O’Donnell says the communication will be strong between the drivers and teams this week regarding the issues from Sunday’s race in New Hampshire: “[The drivers] will always play a role in that, so we’ll be talking to the drivers during the week and I think that was our normal process, obviously in this time we have the challenges of what just happened, but the communication from our standpoint was really quick from the flag stand to the pace car.
“We’ll just employ some more things up in the spotter stand, and make sure that communication continues in as real time as possible.”