Road course proves tough on stars

Crashes mar NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International

Road courses are generally tough on drivers.

On Monday, that moved to a new level as stars not only crashed, but also flipped, in the rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

The final lap of the race featured a horrifying crash as David Ragan slammed into a barrier, careened off of it and into David Reutimann, who flipped. Further up the track, Tony Stewart then slid across the grass and into the wall.

Those crashes followed a race in which both Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin endured scary hits into barriers surrounding the track.

Reutimann and Ragan came out of the care center together and were somehow relatively unscathed.

Ragan, who finished 28th and one spot ahead of Reutimann, issued a renewed call, though, for SAFER barriers at all NASCAR tracks.

"It's just a product of close-quarters racing at the end,” he said of the accident. “… I felt like I had Boris (Said) clear and I think he got a little better run that we did and he just hooked us. He certainly could have given a little more of a break and we all could have gotten through there and not torn up anything. But he was aggressive and we were all aggressive. He hooked me and I hit hard."

How hard was Ragan’s hit?

“I looked down at my feet and my pedals and my leg rests were all pushed over,” he said. “It's a shame that a racetrack we go to in 2011 doesn't have a better wall design all the way around the racetrack, so hopefully they'll look at that. I've been to some dirt tracks that have better walls than that. It was a hard hit, but our cars are safe. Thanks to everyone back at home that builds us safe race cars."

Hamlin, who had spun in qualifying, was 12th on Lap 65 just prior to his wreck. He lost his brakes coming into the turn and slammed into the tire barrier, bending the retaining wall on the other side.

“Something came out in the left front,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know whether it was a tire blew out and then it cut the brake line or the brake line just blew. One of the two of them went and when it did, obviously lost all steering power, all braking power and that was about the scariest I’ve ever been in a race car.”

Hamlin entered the weekend 11th in the points standings and in the second wild-card position for the Chase. He finished 36th.

Hamlin said he thought the only hit he took that was harder in his career was at Talladega in fall 2008. That hit left him with a concussion. Surprisingly, Hamlin said he felt better than expected after Monday's crash.

“It felt like it was slow motion for me, but can’t say enough for all the safety precautions NASCAR takes and obviously the wall helped a lot, getting that dampened the hit a little bit,” Hamlin said. “Really encourage all these drivers to go to seven-point safety belts. I had those and it just really softened the blow quite a bit. A lot of these guys run five-point and it’s just not enough. It’s a testament to all the safety stuff that we have.”

“This was just terrifying because you know there’s nothing you can do and you’re headed straight for the fence. That was the scariest I’ve been in my car.”

Busch blew a tire and went nose-first into the tire barrier in Turn 5. He stood 38th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road-course race when he exited. It was his worst finish of the season.

“I had a big problem getting into the braking zones today, just rear brakes locking up,” Busch said. “I had to crank eight rounds of front brake in our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge just to survive. All that does is generate brake heat, and I blew out the left front tire.

“It was just a bummer of a day and not anything that we expected. It must have been something with the brake package. Whatever (teammate Brad) Keselowski found at Road Atlanta, I had a problem with today.”

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