Drivers forget patience; 15 cars wreck on Lap 9


TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) – Patience is a virtue at Talladega Superspeedway, but it’s one often forgotten.

In the middle of a huge pack of race cars rattling along inches apart, two- and three-wide, lap after lap at nearly 200 mph, it seems many, if not most, of the 43 drivers in the field believe the only way to succeed is to charge from the moment the green flag flies.

That mentality, combined with the big packs created by the horsepower-sapping carburetor restrictor plates required by NASCAR at Talladega and Daytona, makes spectacular, multicar crashes virtually inevitable.

This time, it took only nine laps before things got wild.

Heading down the 4,000-foot backstretch, a group of cars in midpack found themselves racing five-wide. The track is wider than most, but not that wide.

As they drove into turn three, it appeared Carl Edwards, near the apron of the track, touched Kyle Busch, sending him up the track into Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. Cars suddenly were pinballing everywhere, spinning, throwing up clouds of tire smoke and debris. Before it was through, 15 cars had sustained at least minimal body damage and several were terminal.

“It’s one of those deals where everybody kind of clinged together there and started a big ‘ol wreck,” said 20-year-old Busch, a driver who often has been criticized for his lack of patience.

since reaching the Cup Series full time in 2004.

Kasey Kahne’s No. 9 was in the middle of the melee. Kahne, another young Nextel Cup star, had the breath knocked out of him and, even though he walked out of the infield medical center unaided, track doctors decided to keep him off the track the rest of the day.

Hermie Sadler, also involved in the big wreck, replaced Kahne once his team got his Dodge back on track, though only briefly.

Kahne, who has two wins already this season, started 37th on Sunday and was determined to remain patient until the last 30 or 40 laps.

“I wanted to stay back there and wait, but we got in the middle of everything and got in the first wreck,” he said. “Everybody went five-wide and I knew something was going to happen.

“Holes open up in restrictor-plate racing and, as a driver, you want to do it. As a driver, you also have to have enough sense to wait until later in the race and do it when you can make it through it. I definitely think it was too early for it to get that wild out there.”

Sadler, older brother of pole-winner Elliott Sadler, agreed.

“I was kind of riding around in the back with Michael (Waltrip) trying to be safe,” the elder Sadler said. “I guess you’re not safe anywhere anymore, especially when they try to go five-wide less than 20 laps into the race.”

Even getting near the end is no guarantee that you’re going to avoid trouble at Talladega.

Sixteen laps from the end of Monday’s race, with two groups running four-wide for several laps, rookie Denny Hamlin, also on the low side of the 33-degree banking, touched Dave Blaney and ignited a seven-car wreck heading toward turn one.

NASCAR penalized Hamlin a lap for aggressive driving, but that was little solace to Joe Nemechek and Michael Waltrip, both of whom were heading for much-needed top 20 finishes until the late wreck.

The plates were not adopted until 1987, after Bobby Allison’s car cut a tire at close to 210 mph and nearly flew into the packed Talladega grandstand.

NASCAR was determined after that to keep the cars under 200 mph and on the ground at the big tracks.

The plates do produce some breathtaking racing. But they also have led to a succession of terrifying wrecks.