RICHMOND, Va. — A wayward ambulance did not stop when instructed to do so during Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway, causing an incident that forced Matt Kenseth out of the event and series officials pledging not to let it happen again.
Kenseth ran into the back of Clint Bowyer’s car when several cars braked because the ambulance was at the entrance of pit road during a caution on Lap 257. Kenseth’s car suffered a damaged radiator and did not continue, finishing 38th. Kenseth still qualified for the playoffs. Had there been a first-time winner Saturday, Kenseth would have missed the playoffs.
Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the ambulance driver was instructed to stop before the vehicle did.
“We had a situation where a directive was given from the tower and it wasn’t followed, and we’ll do our due diligence why it wasn’t followed and make sure that we’re prepared to never make that mistake again,’’ Miller said after the race, which was won by Kyle Larson.
“It is a very strange thing. The track workers are usually very, very good at following the directives and tonight they didn’t.’’
Adding to the issue is that NASCAR did not close pit road with the ambulance blocking one of the lanes. Drivers criticized that move.
“I was alongside somebody to the right because I didn’t want to knock my nose off and I just turned into pit road and if I get busted (for a commitment line violation), I get busted,’’ Kyle Busch said. “It was just a mess. I think they gave everyone the benefit of the doubt on that one. That was a mistake on their part for opening it up too early.’’
NASCAR did not penalize anyone for a commitment line violation during that sequence.
Kasey Kahne said he had a close call trying to avoid cars and the ambulance entering pit road.
“Everybody is braking hard because what happens is the leaders go to the line and everybody speeds up to get there and it’s an accordion effect,’’ Kahne said. “It gets worse the further back. Usually you have a couple of lanes and you offset yourself. There was only basically one lane and everybody ran out of room.’’
Asked if they should have closed pit road, Miller said: “We probably should. Those calls are very dynamic. They happen very quickly. It’s the race director in charge of pit road open and close and it’s the track services and safety crew in charge of the other. we didn’t sync up tonight.’’