Cup Series drivers seemed to side with NASCAR officials over the calling for a premature ending to the inaugural event at Circuit of the Americas because of the issues with racing in the rain.
Chase Briscoe felt officials made the right call in ending the Texas Grand Prix after 54 laps. NASCAR initially called a caution because of persistent visibility issues on the backstretch before determining the heavy rain wouldn’t allow them to restart the race even if they removed some standing water.
“We were just going to keep tearing stuff up,” Briscoe said. “I’m all for racing in the rain, but it was dangerous. You couldn’t see anything, and literally, anybody could have been stopped, and you would have hit him wide open. That’s how bad it was. It was hairy, to say the least, but it was fun, too.”
There were two significant accidents because drivers couldn’t see a fellow competitor slowing in front of them. Christopher Bell ran into the back of Ryan Blaney, and when Kevin Harvick slowed further back, he was run into by Darrell Wallace Jr. Later, Martin Truex Jr. went for a wild ride after he ran into the back of Michael McDowell and was rear-ended by Cole Custer. The force of the contact sent Truex’s car on top of Custer’s car.
That escalated quickly. I’m all in for the novelty of racing a big heavy car in the rain, but not in a tropical depression. I was in the abyss on the backstretch, then reappeared, and glad to have thread the needle on a friend Dillon and brother Kyle. BS to have run that long. pic.twitter.com/FFvJKIpEaI
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) May 24, 2021
Drivers complaining about driving blind and not being able to see anything was a common theme Sunday afternoon. But Chris Buescher admitted despite the conditions, the cars weren’t the problem.
“I have mixed emotions because I felt like we had more in us, but at the same time, I haven’t seen the replays of some of those crashes on the back,” Buescher said. “But when vision is zero, it’s dangerous. I think that’s where this amount of rain and even though we’re standing outside now and it’s not terrible, it would have taken a lot of time to get the standing water off.
“Unfortunately, it comes down to vision. That’s it. The cars don’t drive that bad in these conditions, it’s just vision. We can’t see.”
NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said officials would investigate any possible solutions to the spray coming off the cars. At this time, Miller isn’t sure what that might be.
Given the visibility issues, NASCAR did allow teams to assist drivers before the end of the second stage with clearing windshields and helmet visors. As they did, officials dispatched the Air Titans to work on the standing water, which Kyle Larson felt helped.
Back straight in traffic be like pic.twitter.com/56cdRKmGgk
— Alex Bowman (@Alex_Bowman) May 24, 2021
Selfishly, Larson would have liked to have kept racing and tried for the win, given that teammate Chase Elliott was short on fuel. But in the end, Larson was OK with NASCAR calling it early. Kyle Busch was also OK with going home early.
“It’s been four hours, enough is enough,” Busch said. “White flag, wave it.”
Busch did admit to having fun when it was only sprinkling, but once the rain picked up, “it was dangerous. It was treacherous.”
Joey Logano felt fine with how most of the day progressed, even with being uncomfortable during restarts when in the pack. Logano used the word “sketchy” throughout the weekend, including to describe when a driver could no longer see the red light in the rear window of the car in front of them.
“But it was fun. I had a blast,” Logano added. “It was mentally draining, mentally very, very challenging out there because the track changed so much from lap to lap. One lap it’s pouring, the next lap it’s raining a little bit, and then you’re hydroplaning everywhere, and you’re really slipping and sliding, and tires meant something. Which I think was surprising to everybody – that tires meant something.
“You saw the 18 (Kyle Busch) drive through the field one time. We put tires on and were able to drive through the field, so it was kind of fun. We’re all learning together and trying to figure it all out at the same time.”
On how things unfolded at the end of the day, Logano broke it down this way: “If we kept going, everything was fine. If we kept clicking laps off, probably everything would have been fine. Yeah, we were hydroplaning a lot down the straightaway. Yes, there was standing water. What’s the line? I don’t know. I think we’re all trying to figure it out together, but once they put the yellow out, then you can’t restart the race because you pack everybody up, and they’re hydroplaning, and you can’t see.
“It was a recipe for disaster, so you can’t restart the race, but everyone was spread out at that moment, so you were probably OK. But maybe safe than sorry after looking at that crash with Cole (Custer) and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.). I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t see the race, but I just saw a replay a minute ago when I got out. When that’s (happening), you need to really be aware of the situation.”