DOVER, Del. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson thought little of the broken slab of concrete he saw on the Dover track during driver introductions.
“I just chalked it up to maybe a bad angle,” he said.
It was a bit more serious than that. The pesky chip that Johnson ignored spawned into chunks of track spewed toward cars, a bridge, and caused a red flag for 22 minutes Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
The race was stopped 160 laps into the race after Ryan Newman’s car knocked up hunks of concrete from the track that kicked back and damaged Jamie McMurray’s car. The race was soon stopped and crews weren’t allowed to work on the cars.
McMurray’s plea for an exception was denied.
Some of the concrete flew up and cracked a window on the pedestrian crossover bridge. Track personnel duct taped the window that was already laminated in safety glass and did not allow anyone to stand on the bridge.
NASCAR officials and safety crews went to work on the potholes and applied hydraulic cement. Cup races were infamously delayed by potholes at Martinsville in 2004 and the 2010 Daytona 500.
NASCAR officials walked the track Sunday morning and noticed a previous patch in the same area, but saw no cause for concern.
“Our crew didn’t see anything wrong with it,” said NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton.
Pemberton said the hole was estimated at 2 to 3 inches deep and about 10 inches wide.
Ed Klima, director of public safety and track operations, said an earlier wreck in the area may have snagged the concrete loose that forced pieces to pop up. He said the area already had one of the five other patches on the track that get close attention.
Dover will make a permanent repair in time for the Sept. 28 race.
The rough patch didn’t affect Johnson — he extended his track record with his ninth victory.
“Maybe you could have told somebody?” Johnson crew chief, Chad Knaus, said with a laugh. “Maybe mention the track was coming apart? But those guys did a fantastic job of fixing the track racing surface.”
Drivers praised NASCAR and Dover for the quick pothole fix that withstood the rigors of the rest of the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked if it was time for Dover to ditch concrete.
“If they repave it, I hope they put asphalt down and we would give fans a heck of a show around here,” he said.
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