Its not what they expected the racing surface should be on the first race of the countdown chase.
The 5th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries was already off to a rocky start after multiple rain delays plagued the weekend. But some competitors were not prepared for what they faced on the track surface come first round of eliminations.
The first class to voice concern was Pro Stock as early as round one. Erica Enders, who has been on a hot-streak the past 7 races, qualified #6 and faced Warren Johnson in the opening round. She led Johnson most of the race, scoring the quicker reaction time and better incrementals down the track. But when Enders approached the 1,000 ft. marker in the left hand lane, the car began to sway violently. Enders was forced to abort the run, pulling the parachutes early to bring the car back under control. Enders was not at all pleased.
“Unsafe racing surface,” Enders said. “The worst surface I’ve been on in thousands of runs. I didn’t have a choice. I hung on to it longer than I should’ve. At the end of the day, my job is to get the car back to this trailer safely. We’ve got a car in one piece to go on in the Countdown (to the Championship). That’s the only good thing about that. It made two big swings, and coming around on that third swing, it was the same feeling I had when I crashed in Bradenton due to lack of experience. I got the chutes out to get the car straight, and Warren came around us.”
Her statements were validated in round #2, when fellow Pro Stock competitor Shane Gray suffered a violent crash at the exact spot in the track. Dave Connolly followed this, also encountered trouble at the 1,000 ft. markers, aborting his run. This finally prompted NHRA officials to respray the track surfaces again. Onboard computers on several competitors in the Pro Stock class showed lateral g-meters accelerated from the normal .5-inch travel to nearly 2 inches of lateral movement at this point on the track.
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The round win numbers told the story. In Pro Stock, round #2 and all subsequent rounds thereafter, the winning runs all came out of the right lane. In Funny Car, all wins in round #3 and on were from the right, and top fuel remained about a 50/50 split. This echoed very upset racers, who stated it was unacceptable to have a one-lane racetrack in such a critical point during the chase.
At the end of the day, there were many upsets in the championship chase quest standings, and a lot of unhappy racers.
What do you think?
Do you think track conditions may have cost racers unfair upsets during the critical countdown?
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