When an incident that happens long before the checkered flag overshadows the driver that actually is celebrating the victory, it’s a big deal.
The downside to this big deal is that the incident did not just involve an accident, but also what happened after.
On lap 201 this weekend in Kansas, Joey Logano suddenly veered hard to the left entering the first turn. Keep in mind this track was just repaved a short while ago, so speeds were already faster. Add in a cool night, under the lights, speeds entering this turn were beyond 200 MPH.
Something broke on Logano’s car, which then sent it hard and quick into Danica Patrick. Her Ford was compressed like an empty aluminum can, but that wasn’t the big talk. Behind her, Aric Almirola had trouble slowing down, and slid so hard into the side of both Logano and Patrick, all three cars got engulfed in a blaze of fire.
It went out quickly, but the incident lifted Almirola off the ground and destroyed what was left of his No. 43 Ford.
When all cars came to a stop, Almirola, Logano and Patrick all let down their window nets, which is a signal to officials that the driver is alright. While Logano and Patrick went to the ambulance for the trip to the care center, which included a confrontation, the real concern then went to Almirola. Despite the net down, Almirola wasn’t getting out. Something did not feel right. Unlike last week’s race at Talladega, drivers are not required to have an escape hatch in the roof to get out in case of an accident or fire. It’s optional, but not mandatory unlike Talladega, where it is in the rules to have one.
Track officials elected to put out the red flag, and the emergency crews then got to work having to do what no team wants to see happen…extricate the driver by any means needed.
This instance meant cutting away the top of the car, including the roll cage, to get the most access. Through it all, Almirola was alert, talking, and responsive. For safety, he was put on a backboard, in a neck brace, and taken to the local Kansas medical center for evaluation.
On Sunday, he was released, diagnosed with a fractured T5 vertebrate. It is unclear of how long, if any, time will be missed, and his Richard Petty Motorsports team has not released any details regarding his status for this week, nor in the near future.
Sadly, even in victory, this incident is the one people will remember from this weekend’s event in Kansas. It’s hard to overshadow the winner, but even Truex Jr. knows the real story is the hope and prayers for a fellow racer. I too hope he recovers quickly, but fully, and doesn’t return until he knows his body is ready to race once again.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
RESULTS: 1-Truex Jr. 2-Keselowski 3-Harvick 4-Blaney 5-Kyle Busch 6-Larson 7-Suarez 8-McMurray 9-Bowyer 10-Bayne
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Stenhouse Jr. 19-Kurt Busch 20-Earnhardt Jr. 24-Johnson 37-Logano 40-Newman
CAUTIONS: 15 for 61 laps. Lap 31-34 (#34 incident-T1); 51-55 (#34 incident=FS); 60-62 (#13 spin-BS); 82-87 (Stage 1 conclusion); 97-99 (#77 spin-T2); 103-105 (debris-BS); 138-143 (#83 incident-T4); 148-152 (#23 incident-T4); 162-166 (Stage 2 conclusion); 195-198 (#27, #47 incident-T2); 201-204 (#10, #22, #43 incident-T1, Red Flag-27 Mins, 41 Secs.); 217-220 (#77 incident-T2); 245-248 (#83 incident-T1); 260-262 (#13, #77-T4); 264-265 (#11, #41, #48 incident-T1).
LEAD CHANGES: 21 among 9 drivers. R. Blaney 1-9; M. Truex Jr. 10-52; K. Harvick 53-62; Kyle Busch 63-82; M. Truex Jr. 83-99; Kyle Busch 100-138; R. Blaney 139; C. Bowyer 140-142; R. Blaney 143-163; Kurt Busch 164-166; R. Blaney 167-179; M. Truex Jr. 180-195; R. Blaney 196-198; M. Truex Jr. 199-204; R. Blaney 205-217; D. Earnhardt Jr. 218-219; T. Bayne 220; R. Blaney 221-242; M. Truex Jr. 243-245; E. Jones # 246-247; R. Blaney 248; M. Truex Jr. 249-267.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 24 Mins, 17 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 117.640 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.1 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Points/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Larson, 475 ; 2. Truex Jr, -44 ; 3. Keselowski, -67 ; 4. Elliott, -114 ; 5. McMurray, -121; 6. Harvick, -128 ; 7. Kyle Busch, -150 ; 8. Johnson, -152 ; 9. Logano, -155 ; 10. Bowyer, -158; 11. Blaney, -184 ; 12. Hamlin, -186 ; 13. Stenhouse Jr, -199 ; 14. Bayne, -225; 15. Kurt Busch, -229 ; 16. Kahne, -233.