Pair of NASCAR teams scrambling amid hauler issues at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One hauler caught fire while traveling to Kansas Speedway, another went off the road when its driver had a medical emergency and wound up totaled at the bottom of a 60-foot embankment.
So much for wrecks only happening on the track.
The No. 47 team from JTG Daugherty Racing was busy Friday morning putting an engine into a backup car for Ryan Preece after its team transporter caught fire the previous day. The drivers in the hauler were not injured, though the team was unsure what could be salvaged of the cars.
Hendrick Motorsports loaned one of its test haulers to the NASCAR Cup Series team, and it was parked near the back side of the garage area to prepare for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.
“Rookie stripes are on and it’s official. I’m very grateful for the safety of our truck drivers, and the hard work everyone has put in this week to get on track today,” Preece said in a tweet.
Less than 12 hours before the JTG fire, the transporter bringing Kaulig Racing’s cars to Kansas for Saturday’s Xfinity race went off a road in North Carolina. The hauler crashed through the guardrail, down an embankment and the trailer overturned before coming to a stop in a wooded area.
The North Carolina highway patrol said the crash, which occurred near Asheville, happened when driver Barry Sheppard had “some kind of medical issue.” Co-driver Barry Collins attempted to right the truck before it ran off the side of the road and down the embankment.
Both drivers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released.
“We haven’t assessed everything so I don’t know what we can salvage or can’t salvage,” Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice said. “Our main concern is our driver is OK.”
The team, which is fielding the No. 10 entry for Ross Chastain, said it would be using a backup car it had been preparing for Texas. All they managed to get out of the totaled truck were his fire suit and helmet because the rest of the wreckage was taken to an impound lot.
“If you work for Matt Kaulig, it’s never a consideration of not bringing a car to the race track,” Rice said. “Our backup car is a car that Richard Childress Racing helped us with. But nothing in that trailer was able to come here besides the suit and his helmet.”
The wreck hasn’t even been the worst news for Kaulig Racing this season.
In July, the team learned the crew chief of its No. 11 car was found dead at his home after a race at New Hampshire. The medical examiner’s report released last month determined Nick Harrison had a combination of cocaine, oxycodone and alcohol in his system when he died.
“Never say it can’t be worse,” said Rice, who then revealed Friday that his beloved dog had gone missing Wednesday night — the night their hauler wrecked. The Lhasa Apso had saved his wife’s life 18 months ago when it woke her up in the midst of an allergic reaction to shellfish.
The family eventually found the dog a few miles from home.
Perhaps it’s the beginning of a turnaround for the team.
Kaulig Racing recently announced that Chastain would run a full Xfinity schedule next season, and that Justin Haley would be back in a two-team effort. The team, with designs on eventually running a Cup Series team, also plans to field a third entry for a select number of races.
“They came into this series — I don’t know if a lot of people knew what to think — but they’re here and they’re investing, and stuff like the terrible thing that happened the other day doesn’t slow them down,” Chastain said. “The guys have worked 30-something hours straight to get this car ready. I have confidence in my guys and Chris and Matt. We’re here for the long haul.”