The last time NASCAR visited a road course at Indianapolis, it proved disastrous as multiple curbs on the track destroyed numerous cars in both the Xfinity and Cup Series races. On Saturday at the Charlotte Roval, drivers and fans had a bad case of deja vu when the race was red-flagged and the track had to be repaired after a curb shredded one of the cars.
Up in the NBC broadcast booth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton watched the destruction of the car and the lengthy delay due to track repairs and offered some strong opinions about NASCAR and what the organization should do about it going forward.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has flashbacks to Indianapolis watching Xfinity Series race at Roval
With 12 laps to go in Stage 2 of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Josh Bilicki reported having brake problems over his radio. The end result was the No. 07 car went off track at a high rate of speed and hit the last of three rows of black and yellow curbs. The car immediately went airborne as the curbing exploded in multiple directions.
“It’s like the splitter went underneath the curb, and when it did it just ripped the curb off the racetrack and then ripped the front end off the race car,” Jeff Burton said.
“Yeah, I’m having Indy road course flashbacks watching that happen,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted.
“What do they do? Do they fix that?” Burton asked as the broadcast showed the first of many replays from an assortment of angles.
“It was bolted down,” Rick Allen said.
“Was,” Burton pointed out as they showed another replay. “You can see how low the car is, and right there it just digs underneath the curb and destroys the car.”
Earnhardt and Burton both call out NASCAR
Jeff Burton said that before the race, he and Steve Letarte took a lap in the pace car and specifically checked out the curbs after the destruction they witnessed several months earlier in Indianapolis. Ironically, he said there wasn’t anything that stood out.
“They’re not that bad. They’ll be OK. They’re not like Indy,” Burton said he told Letarte.
Famous last words.
After Bilicki’s car was destroyed by the curb, the AMR Safety team went to work, cutting off the remaining bolts.
“I’ve got to tell you guys, I don’t even know why these curbs are there,” Burton bluntly admitted. “I think honestly, there’s a rule. If you’re on the wrong side of the curbs, there’s a penalty. I’m not even sure why we put these penalty curbs in there just to destroy the racetrack and also disrupt the race. I think it’s something we need to look at. I don’t know the advantage of having those curbs there.”
A few minutes later, when the race went red, the broadcast showed footage from Indianapolis.
“There’s a penalty if you’re on the wrong side of the curbs,” Burton noted.
“The repeated damage with the issue that we had at Indy cropped up in a big way during the Cup race the following day. This will be something for NASCAR, the track to look at,” Earnhardt said. “Do we really need those curbs there at all? I’m sure drivers are already sending in text messages to people in the industry to maybe remove those entirely because they’re really not necessary.”
“I agree. I think that we can learn from this and make a decision and get these things out of the way,” Burton said. “There’s no need to have a double penalty.”
Indianapolis curbing caused major issues
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, along with the drivers and fans, watched back in August when things took a dramatic turn for the worse at Indianapolis on the first lap of the Xfinity Series race. That’s when multiple cars swung out wide on Turn 6 beyond the blue-and-white curb strips and went airborne after hitting a bright orange curb.
Multiple cars, including Kevin Harvick’s, were destroyed, and their days ended. Cars avoided that area for the rest of the race, and less than an hour after it ended, track officials removed the curb.
As Earnhardt mentioned, the Cup Series also encountered trouble the next day with curbing in Turn 6 on the opposite side of the track. After track officials repaired the curbed area twice, it struck for a third and final time, causing a massive crash with 10 cars, including Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, and resulted in a red flag.
Officials removed the blue-and-white strips, and no cars were damaged the rest of the race.
While Saturday’s Xfinity Series race destroyed one car with curbing that was clearly unnecessary as Earnhardt and Burton detailed, NASCAR learned its lesson. It removed the curbing before Sunday’s race.
Better late than never.