Murto: Strange things happen at tracks

By Craig Murto

Strange things happen at racetracks, but none as strange as what happened during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A nylon guide cable for the Fox Sports overhead camera tumbled onto the track on lap 121, injuring spectators and damaging racecars. Seven spectators were treated at the scene, three transported to local hospitals for minor injuries. NASCAR red-flagged the race to allow teams whose cars were damaged by the cable to make repairs.

NASCAR made the correct decision; the Fox Sports crew and equipment are not supposed to be part of the event; the sports reporters are not supposed to become a story worth reporting.

Some have observed that a couple years ago when Martinsville Speedway’s pavement began breaking up and damaged a number of cars, including Jeff Gordon’s, NASCAR did not allow repairs to be made under red as the track was repaired. The reason the situation is different is because even though the track is not supposed to break up, it is still the racing surface, part of the event. It was unfortunate that the track broke up when it did, but it became part of the event.

It would even be different if there had been an accident at Charlotte that caused a piece of debris to fly high into the air and cut the guide cable. If that had happened, the falling guide cable would have fallen due to circumstances on the racetrack, and cars damaged by the cable simply would have been caught up in the accident just as cars struck by debris from any accident.

But during the 600, the cable simply fell. It was an outside influence that adversely affected the event, not part of the event itself. NASCAR made the correct decision allowing teams to make repairs.

The technology of overhead cameras is nothing new; it’s also used to cover NFL football, as well as other sports. Technology can fail; I wonder if a guide cable fell during an NFL game and affected a play if officials would allow the down to be played over.

It’s a shame that spectators were injured, and that some were not present for Kevin Harvick’s eventual victory. Thankfully all the injuries were minor. I’m sure a line of lawyers are outside the door of every one of those injured spectators. After all, just look at the lawsuit targets — Fox Sports, Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR. Accidents happen, but we sure milk them for all they’re worth these days, don’t we?

And nobody expected the Indy 500 to rewrite the record books with 68 lead changes among 14 drivers before Tony Kanaan scored the win. Given expectations, it was strange that the Indy 500 was by far the best race of the three big Sunday events. And the Indy Lights race on Friday was the best race of the year, when Peter Dempsey won a four-wide, side-by-side victory by .0026 seconds. We may never see a four-wide win that close again in this lifetime. Search for the video and watch it the next time you’re in front of a computer.

Was it strange that Nico Rosberg led every lap in his Mercedes to win the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, 30 years to the day that his father, former World Champion Keke Rosberg, won the race?

The underrated Rosberg may have led every lap, but the racing behind him was so furious it led more than one observer to call it F1’s version of short track racing. Two safety car periods and one red flag — rare for F1 — marred the event, in which Ferrari’s Filipe Massa was transported to a local hospital for observation after a hard hit.

Strange things happen at racetracks so often that perhaps it’s not accurate to call them strange; perhaps it’s more accurate to simply say that anything can happen at a racetrack.

This weekend you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see what happens at local and regional tracks, including the Steel Block Bandits Late Model series competing at Natural Bridge Speedway in the Dana Dove Memorial on Saturday night.

Shenandoah Speedway features a 100-lap race for its pavement Late Model division Saturday night. Or, if dirt is your thing and Natural Bridge is too far away, Hagerstown features the Appalachian Mountain Dirt Late Model Speedweek series, as well as a special Pure Stock program.

Sunday afternoon the Appalachian Speedweek series runs at Winchester Speedway, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to visit local tracks and see what strange things happen.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.