FORT WORTH – According to a NASCAR spokesperson, travel delays resulting from mechanical issues on a plane carrying “industry representatives” pushed back the opening of the Camping World Truck Series garage at Texas Motor Speedway and forced the cancellation of the first of three practice sessions.
The plane, traveling from Concord, North Carolina, to Texas for this weekend’s race, had to turn around shortly after takeoff but did not have to make an emergency landing. Jesse Little, who is racing the No. 81 Toyota this weekend at Texas, was on the flight. Little told NBC Sports that the plane, which was about “80 percent full,” wasn’t pressurizing properly during its ascent.
According to FlightAware.com, flight BSK8801 showed as being diverted back to Concord Regional Airport 27 minutes after a 7:57 a.m. ET departure. Little said the NASCAR contingent later boarded a different plane. The second flight took off from Concord at 12:35 p.m. ET and landed at Fort Worth Alliance Airport at 1:44 p.m. CT.
Little described what he saw on the plane during the first departure from Concord. Little said he was asleep when popping in his ears woke him up.
“About that time, a guy that works on our team, Matt, he was next to me, said ‘S–t, I have the worst headache,’ ” Little told NBC Sports. “One guy was walking down the aisle and using the chairs (to balance himself) and saying ‘Man, I’m about to pass out.’ He was all out of balance and stuff.”
This was not the first issue with plane travel within NASCAR this year. In March, a plane carrying Hendrick Motorsports personnel made an emergency landing in Memphis on the way back to North Carolina from the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Originally scheduled to open at 12:30 p.m. ET, the truck garage opened at 3:30 p.m. ET, which was when the first practice session was slated to begin.
Instead, the trucks will practice from 6 – 6:45 p.m. ET and 7:30 – 9 p.m. ET. Neither session is being broadcast on TV.
The Truck series is visiting the 1.5-mile track in a joint weekend with the Verizon IndyCar Series, which doesn’t hit the track until Friday morning.