O’Donnell: NASCAR at work mulling ‘Dega tweaks – Nascar
A similar issue caught Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson earlier this season, when a loose steering wheel caused a crash during Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Even if it’s an isolated incident, we’ll look at it,” O’Donnell said. “We saw the video as well and know it was trending on Twitter, so some folks want to make light of it, but to your point, it could be something that could cause issues down the road if it was a trend. We’ll talk to Junior and his team and make sure that hopefully was just what you said initially, an isolated incident and go from there. But if there’s anything we can take from that, we will certainly communicate that to all the teams because that’s something you don’t want to see, especially at speed.”
Two hours after O’Donnell’s radio experience, Earnhardt Jr. took responsibility for the incident on Twitter.
My steering wheel came off during a caution yesterday. I take full responsibility for not making sure it was connected properly beforehand..
There was no issue with the wheel or coupler. This is just a rare case of being in too big a hurry to return to the action…
O’Donnell also addressed the handful of multicar crashes in Sunday’s 500-miler that resulted in cars leaving the ground. The cars of Chris Buescher , Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick all either rolled, caught air or tipped over after being snared in incidents in the tight pack racing common at Talladega and Daytona, where horsepower is restricted.
O’Donnell told “Morning Drive” hosts Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone that officials at the NASCAR R&D Center would work with teams and tracks to share their findings from the crashes.
“My gut reaction is similar to yours, the drivers, the fans and everyone — you never want to see that,” O’Donnell said. “So you immediately work on, ‘OK, is everybody safe? Did the safety equipment do its job?’ and then what can we learn from that. The immediate steps are to review all the media shots that we have of those incidents, work with the race teams and then look at what may or may not be different from when we’ve been not only at Talladega, but at any other race track. We’ve had cars get in the air at other tracks as well, so we’ll look at that. We’ll study the cars as well. We’ll work with the industry. …
“With each incident, you never want to learn through those instances but you always do. Every accident is different: The angle, how fast the car was moving, what was the position of the car, yaw — you’ve got to look at all those things and then the race track, how does it factor in. That’ll all be part of our process in sitting down and reviewing that. We’ve got a great group of folks at the R&D Center who I know the folks in our industry trust to do the right thing, and we’ll continue to do that.”
O’Donnell also touched on the finish to Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, where Elliott Sadler was declared the winner after an official review. Brennan Poole crossed the start/finish line first, but Sadler was ruled ahead when the caution lights illuminated and the running order was frozen.
O’Donnell said officials in race control considered several factors — including where cars were on the track, did Sadler maintain pace, when did the caution lights first emerge, was Sadler forced below the yellow line — before reaching their decision. But O’Donnell also said that safety was a strong consideration in throwing the yellow flag at all.
“I saw some fans ask, ‘Why the caution? Let ’em race back to the checkered,’ ” O’Donnell said. “From our perspective in the tower, things are happening so quickly. When you see the incident that we saw, you almost forget where the start/finish line is and your immediate reaction is to throw the caution as soon as you can get safety vehicles dispatched. That’s our first instinct on an incident like we saw.”