CHARLOTTE, N.C. >> Matt Kenseth had his race ruined by a wayward ambulance on pit road at Richmond, and it was not the first issue the driver has had with an emergency vehicle this year at a NASCAR race.
In fact, many drivers raised concerns about lax safety issues during today’s preview of the upcoming 10-race playoffs. The issue is front and center because Kenseth was a victim Saturday night of an ambulance driver who chose the entrance to pit road to park the truck.
As cars entered pit road under caution, they had to swerve to avoid the ambulance. Kenseth ran into the car in front of him and it ended his race.
“At the spring Richmond race, I was driving around the infield for about 5 minutes with him and he was lost and couldn’t find the care center. So thankfully I wasn’t bleeding to death,” Kenseth said. “The other one was after California or something like that, he drove so recklessly, it threw me right off the bench and I almost hit my head in the ambulance.”
Kevin Harvick backed up Kenseth’s assessment that the safety teams have had issues this season.
“The ambulances, for whatever reason this year, have been a little more of an issue as far as getting to the accident, getting back from the accident, getting lost in many circumstances going back to the infield care center,” Harvick said. “Everybody is doing a great job when they get to the cars, but we still have some issues of getting the ambulances to the infield care center without getting lost. That’s been an issue for not only myself, twice, but several other drivers as they’ve had their trips to the infield care center.”
Denny Hamlin, leader of the driver council, said the ambulance taking Aric Almirola to the care center after he broke his back in a crash at Kansas got lost in the infield.
“His ambulance got lost inside the racetrack. I mean, he had a serious injury,” Hamlin said. “I know they’re trying to do the best they can. We for sure can get better because we’re not good right now.”
NASCAR said today it will continue to “work with the tracks and safety teams to improve in every aspect of support. Safety is paramount, and it’s something we work hard at all year long.”
TRUEX STILL TICKED
Martin Truex Jr. still disagrees with the late caution call that cost him a win at Richmond. After talking to NASCAR, the regular-season champion hopes officiating won’t be a problem in the playoffs, which begin this weekend at Chicagoland.
“I think for the most part of the season, they’ve been consistent, not jumping on every hot dog wrapper for a caution,” Truex said. “I thought Saturday night at Richmond was a departure from what we’ve seen really the last five or six months.”
Truex had the win in hand when Derrike Cope hit the wall with three laps remaining. NASCAR called a caution, the race went into overtime, and Truex was involved in an accident. Days later, Truex still does not believe Cope’s contact with the wall warranted the flag.
“Somebody just jumped the gun on that one,” he said. “There was no legitimate reason for a caution. Wouldn’t matter if it happened before or not. For me, I felt like there was no reason for a caution at all.”
NASCAR has admitted it had a rough night at Richmond in the scoring tower.
Truex also referenced a Twitter post from Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week that pointed out that Carl Edwards retired shortly after a questionable caution call led to Edwards not winning the championship last November.
“Dale Jr.’s tweet this week about Carl Edwards, his championship going away last year for a caution, it’s hard not to think about that,” Truex said. “If we’re in that same situation at Homestead and that happens, what happened to us Saturday night, that would be really, really hard to take. They just need to make sure they’re consistent and make the right call when the pressure’s on. I mean, that’s their job.”
NEW PIT CREW
Joe Gibbs Racing has given Kyle Busch a new pit crew for the playoffs.
The team moved Busch’s crew to Daniel Suarez’s car this week because Suarez did not make the playoffs. Busch will use Suarez’s crew for the next 10 races.
“When you’re in a performance-based business, it comes down to performance,” Busch said. “For us and Joe Gibbs Racing, everybody on the whole organization kind of decided that it was a necessary change to give ourselves the best opportunity to go race for a championship. We felt like we were a little bit short there with the pit crew.”