THROUGH THESE GATES PASS THE BRAVEST DRIVERS IN THE WORLD.
That is the message Super Late Model teams are subjected to as they push their equipment through into the infield at Winchester Speedway and its signature event reinforced that notion tenfold by Lap 80 on Sunday afternoon.
JP Crabtree was left upside down and on fire after colliding with defending winner Carson Hocevar and veteran Josh Ebbert early in the Winchester 400.
Hocevar called it the hardest hit of his career — even more violent than the one he was subjected to earlier in the month in the NASCAR Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Crabtree immediately climbed out of his upside-down car through the passenger side window but collapsed on the ground outside of Turn 2. He stood up under his own power to be treated by the arriving ambulance and left it under his own power too.
Ultimately, he was more upset about his race car than his own well-being. He said the incident began with contact between Hocevar and Ebbert.
“I’m not sure if that was a racing deal or what, but it happened so fast, but with hindsight, I should have just slid into the back of them,” Crabtree said.
In real time, trying to dart left and glancing off Ebbert and into Hocevar is what sent him upside down onto the 37-degree banked Turns 1 and 2.
“With it being a self-clearing race track, it left me with a choice of where to go and I don’t even know which one I hit first.”
Ebbert praised the safety components of the modern Super Late Model before detailing his view of the incident.
"I had been following (Hocevar) for a couple of laps and I felt like I was gaining on him,” Ebbert said. “So, I made the decision the lap before that I was going to drive under him and he came down on me, and that made my car step out so that’s probably where the contact (with Crabtree) was made."
A race that feature a tremendous amount of tire wear, Hocevar said he had a left rear coming apart, which is what contributed to that crash.
“That sent me around and I just got hit really hard,” Hocevar said. “I looked over and I saw a car sideways, full undercarriage and glad everyone is alright, but that’s part of it sometimes.”
Crabtree said collapsing on the ground was more emotional anguish than physical.
"I was just upset the car was destroyed,” Crabtree said. “I was going to stay in the car and let them tip me back over, but I saw something leaking into the dash and I had to get out of there."
There are no easy crashes at Winchester Speedway but Ebbert said it has an allure that has always kept him coming back and will continue to bring him back once they get his car repaired.
"I have been coming here for twentysomething years and this place is a beast,” Ebbert said. “I still love it and I hope to have the opportunity to come back and do it again."
Hocevar entered the event as its defending winner. He started third and was running anywhere inside the top-15 during the first period the race. There were a tremendous amount of passing during that first stint.
“There was a lot of comers and goers for sure,” Hocevar said, “and I’m bummed I’m not out there. I loved that the tires were falling off, but they were probably falling off a little too much in the sense they shouldn’t be falling apart.
“But I enjoyed spinning the tires and hanging on to a race car. I tried to go hard to maintain my track position, and we stayed ahead of everyone we were running with, so we had a good car. I just hate we couldn’t be there at the end.”
-Story by: Matt Weaver – Twitter: @MattWeaverRA
-Photo credit: Matt Weaver