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Disintegrating Curb Repeatedly Throws NASCAR Race Into Chaos

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 15: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 CarParts.com Ford, Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Unibet Ford, avoid Ross Chastain, driver of the #42 Clover Chevrolet, spin during the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 15, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, and for the first time in the Cup Series, the race was held not on the 2.5-mile oval but on a 14-turn road course circumscribed into the center of said oval. It did not go smoothly.

The trouble started on Saturday, when the road course hosted a race in NASCAR’s “minor league” circuit. A bit of the curb on the sixth turn was removed for the Cup Series race after it caused several drivers to crash out, while another briefly launched a driver skyward. The jump-ramp curb was meant to keep drivers from cutting the course, though in practice it sent a few airborne.

The way the Saturday race was handled left drivers pretty salty, but despite the removal of one problematic section of curb, the main race went even worse. The curb holding the corner of the sixth turn in place held up through the first 95 percent of the race, as officials reportedly pounded it with sledgehammers during cautions to keep it from getting raised up and causing trouble. Everything went fine until lap 77 of the 82-lap race, when Martin Truex Jr. spun on the curb. The race kept going, though the curb was now sufficiently damaged to wreak havoc on the cars that passed over it at full speed. William Byron’s splitter got ripped off, which caused roughly one-third of the field to crash. Joey Logano was okay despite slamming into the barriers.

This was just the beginning of the chaos. Officials stopped the race for 19 minutes to remove the curb. Problem solved, right? Well, the removal of the damaged curb meant that the “jump” was now back in play, which immediately caused another crash (expertly avoided by Bubba Wallace driving through the grass).

After a pair of restarts, the race finally entered its endgame. Denny Hamlin was leading Chase Briscoe and A.J. Allmendinger when Briscoe cut directly across the grass on the first turn. He’d later receive a penalty for cutting the course, though he was not penalized for crashing Hamlin out later in the lap despite being out of contention for a finishing position.

Allmendinger held on to win the race, a genuine shocker since Allmendinger only has one other Cup win and his Kaulig Racing team only races part-time in the Cup series. That would be the biggest story from the race if he hadn’t won what looked like an IRL Mario Kart race, which is not what anyone signed up for.