Martin Truex, Jr.’s second win of 2017 overshadowed by Aric Almirola’s injury after brutal lap 199 crash
Shortcomings has defined Martin Truex, Jr.’s luck the past few years at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. This time around, Truex, Jr. redeemed himself by not only leading the most laps (104 of 267 laps) once again but finally winning the Go Bowling 400 Saturday for his second win of the season.
Truex, Jr. held off Brad Keselowski after pulling an excellent restart during the overtime restart.
In an interview, Truex, Jr. said despite having a fast car, he could’ve been beaten anytime throughout the race.
“Each win are so special, these races are so hard to win,” Truex, Jr. said. “Any of those restarts I could’ve got beat on. Something could’ve happen because you just never know. I’m so proud of everyone on this team and it’s amazing.”
Truex, Jr.’s win cuts points leader Kyle Larson’s 54-point lead down to 44.
Truex, Jr. also joined Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as the only multi-winners of 2017. Truex, Jr. won previously at Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 12.
Like his last win, Truex, Jr.’s victory was overshadowed by an incident on the track.
On lap 199, the race’s 11th of a record-tying 15 cautions stole the headlines after three drivers had a heavy shunt entering turn one.
Joey Logano’s No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford broke a brake rotor, veering his car down into Danica Patrick. The collision sent Patrick into the wall nearly head-on at full speed.
Logano spun around and backed his car into the wall while Patrick’s mangled car was engulfed with flames and sparks.
Other drivers took abrasive action and went to the bottom except one, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola.
Almirola’s car was on the slippery high groove, lost control of his car and plowed into Logano, lifting the rear wheels off the ground and landed violently as his No. 43 Smithfield Ford made a complete stop in turn two.
Logano and Patrick got out of the car unscathed, Almirola however only removed his window and was unable to exit his car under his own power, requiring medical attention.
The race was halted over 27 minutes as the safety team cut open the roof to remove Almirola from the wreckage.
Almirola was airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center for further evaluation. The team’s press release said:
“(Almirola) was transported by helicopter to a local medical facility for evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be held overnight for further observation.”
The latest release came Sunday morning reporting Almirola suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra and was released from the hospital.
Almirola was reported of being mobile and will have a follow-up with his doctors at Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Jerry Punch said in a tweet by ESPN writer Bob Pockrass, a T5 vertebra normally heals quickly and may not require surgery.
Almirola is the fourth driver to have had back problems since 2013.
Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture after his last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway March 24, 2013, missing four races.
Retired driver Jeff Gordon dealt with lower back pain the last few years of his Cup career including sitting out final practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 2014.
Last season, Tony Stewart missed the first eight races of his final year in Cup after suffering a burst fraction in his back during the off-season.
No confirmed reports have come out regarding how much time Almirola will sit out.
(As of May 19, 2017 – Almirola will sit out 8-12 weeks with a driver yet to be announced.)
A disgusted Logano said his thoughts was on Almirola after his rotor broke.
“I’m okay, just saying prayers for Aric,” Logano said. “A lot of us took a hard hit and something broke in my car. I tried to back off but when you’re going 215 mph, it’s hard to check up and my car took a big step sideways into the corner and hooked Danica. The right front popped and took a hard left. I hope Aric is alright and that’s the last thing you want to see is a big hit like that from anyone.”
Logano said he spoke with Patrick after the accident.
“We rode back in the ambulance together and told her that something broke,” Logano said. “I hate that I started the accident and there’s nothing I could’ve done and tore up a lot of really good cars.”
Patrick said she felt horrible about the situation after her fifth DNF of the season, plummeting her down to 33rd in the standings.
“I don’t understand why so much bad luck happens but I feel physically fine,” Patrick said. “A rotor on a track we’re braking 200-300 pounds of brake pressure, why? I was having a really good night and that’s what makes me the most mad. Every time I’m doing better, something stupid happens and it’s just killing me.”
Patrick said she’s concerned about her safety after having several hard hits throughout her Cup career.
“I hope Aric is okay, he’s definitely feeling the worst of everybody,” Patrick said. “NASCAR does everything they can to make our cars the safest as possible. His car looked the least damaged out of all us. One of these times these accidents aren’t going to go good for me. I’ve been very fortunate so far but one of these times it’s not going to go well.”
With Almirola on everyone’s mind, the Cup drivers prepare for a two-week stay at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.
It begins with the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race May 20. The Cup drivers will resume their points battle May 28 for the longest race of the calendar, the Coca-Cola 600.
Logano is the defending All-Star winner. Patrick will have to race herself in by either winning one of the three segments in the Showdown or win the Fan Vote.
Truex, Jr. will be vying for back-to-back wins in the 600-mile race after humbling the competition last year, leading 392 of 400 laps.