Matt Hirschman called last year’s New Smyrna Speedweeks “the World Series of World Series,” replete with good races and great finishes.
The 2021 edition has forced him to strike a different tune.
“I haven’t seen a lot of (the chaos) but I’ve seen enough of it sitting sideways with the field coming at me,” Hirschman said of a late spin during the John Blewett Memorial 76 on Wednesday.
“… What happened going into Turn 1 is like a demo derby at the county fair.”
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) February 11, 2021
Through the first three nights of Tour Type Modified competition at the World Series of Asphalt, there has been way too much carnage. Over the first three nights — a total of 161 green-flag laps — there have been eight red flags. The shortest race to complete, a 35-lapper on Tuesday night, still took 50 minutes to run. The entire 161 laps have taken four hours to complete.
The John Blewett III Memorial 76 alone was marred by five red flags.
The height of absurdity occurred on Lap 52 when Tom Martino Jr. spun in Turn 4, recovered and turned sharply and inexplicably to pit … right into the path of Marcello Rufrano. The incident eliminated both cars from competition.
“You can’t just make this stuff up,” Rufrano said. “He just turned left… It’s like no one communicates nowadays.”
More to the point, everyone seems to agree that it’s simply a lack of respect.
“Teams come in here with unlimited budgets, unlimited cars and they just go at it as hard as they can go at it,” Burt Myers said. “I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with it, but if you’re asking me what the problem is … it’s that.
“I have to pay for this car, and I have to fix this car, and a majority of guys in this pit area show up with a helmet bag like they do on Sunday. So they don’t respect their own equipment, so they’re damn sure not going to respect my equipment.”
Myers’s week came to an early close when Ron Silk chopped him off on a restart with two to go and sending the 10-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion climbing the frontstretch wall.
“You would think someone who has been driving as long as Ronnie Silk has, could have lost a spotter halfway through the race and still know I was there.
“He’d say he didn’t mean to it, and it wasn’t malicious, but it’s still a real stupid move. It pretty much wiped our race car out … and it ended our week.”
What's left of the Burt Myers car pic.twitter.com/F7TzoIOSbg
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) February 11, 2021
This is the largest Tour Type Modified roster for Speedweeks in over a decade, but each night has been a crashfest rather than something to celebrate, and it boiled over during the John Blewett III Memorial 76.
Defending World Series champion Anthony Nocella is debating sitting out Thursday night’s race to save his car for the Richie Evans Memorial 100 on Friday night.
“All week, it’s kind of been a demo derby,” Anthony Nocella said. “It’s been brutal. Guys are running over each other and I don’t know why.”
After getting taken out in another late-race wreck that wasn’t of his doing, Jimmy Blewett reasoned that the extended off-season might have had something to do with the hyper-aggression this week.
“Everybody wants to get that trophy,” Blewett said. “We come down here, we been all trapped in our homes because of this pandemic, and not really getting to race as much as we want to. I can’t really say it’s rust, it’s just that everyone wants that plastic trophy.”
Some have pointed to the large field sizes as a contributing factor.
New Smyrna Speedway general manager Rusty Marcus had advertised throughout the week that every car would start, but hesitated upon realizing that over 40 would show up over the weekend. A B-Main format was proposed on Monday afternoon but the teams rejected it and they’ve been largely crashing ever since.
Craig Lutz opened the week win a win and sixth-place but involved in a pair of incidents on Wednesday.
“I don’t know what it is,” Lutz said. “It’s probably a little bit of everything. It wasn’t this bad this last year. People are hungry to win and they’re just driving into each other. Then you sit around under red and you have all this time to think about it, and then it happens again. I just, dunno.”