Kevin Harvick wins his third Brickyard 400 after Denny Hamlin blew a tire seven laps before the end.
Twelve laps after the 2020 Brickyard 400 on Sunday, the warning flag goes up and cars race into the pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, probably the most dangerous pit area on the NASCAR circuit. It is definitely the thinnest pit area with a diameter of only 24 feet. When the yellow flag begins to wave before chaos breaks out, NBC analyst and former driver Jeff Burton literally calls it “the thinnest pit row on the racetrack. When all these cars are clustered together, that’s dangerous. “
And then it happens that all of these cars are clustered behind Michael McDowell’s Ford Mustang No. 34. And it is dangerous. Cars ram into each other from behind, crash and turn sideways. Ground zero for this disaster is Ryan Blaney’s pit area, one of the first stations in the pit row where Justin Allgaier and Brennan Poole watch the chaos and turn left to avoid the rubble.
They turn dangerously close to Blaney’s pit area, where crew members jump out of the way. You can get to safety by climbing onto the roof of Blaney’s car.
You can’t quite do it.
This guy, whoever he is, is about to change Blaney’s right rear tire. If he is aware of the chaos that is coming, he will not show it. But the cars are piling up and at the last moment this guy looks to his left and sees Allgaier’s car approaching. He turns his body as the car slides past, and maybe nudges him, maybe not, but here’s the real problem:
Brennan Poole’s car is just right for him. The crew member tries to get to safety, but there is no place to go. He is trapped between Poole’s car and Blaney’s car, his left leg gets the worst of it, the violence tears off his helmet and makes him jump on the asphalt. Now this guy is on the asphalt too, and with cars that still drive into the pit lane, he knocks off his right leg one or two times, a third time. Now he falls into the arms of another Blaney crew member.
Back in Taylorsville, North Carolina, Tasha Price watches the Brickyard 400 on TV. Well, she’s trying to watch. Her son Maxton turned 10 on Sunday and had played outside. Maxton comes and goes and Tasha tries to watch the race while taking care of the birthday boy. Where’s Tasha’s husband and Maxton’s father?
He is one of Ryan Blaney’s crew members. He’s on TV.
Unless it may not be. It’s going so fast, Tasha Price thinks that her husband wasn’t caught between two cars. It wasn’t Zach Price. It starts to think.
And then her phone rings.
He went to NASCAR Tech
He was not an athlete at Alexander Central, the public high school in Taylorsville. Don’t get it wrong. Zach Price was athletic, strong, and explosive; He just wasn’t athletic. He was in cars. When other children were playing catch or shooting tires, Zach was under the hood of a car, someone’s car, and found out how the engine worked.
Zach and Tasha went to high school together, but didn’t go out together until they graduated in 2003. A few years later, Zach Price decides to pursue his dream. He enrolls at the NASCAR Technical Institute in nearby Mooresville, NC. Until then, he and Tasha are a couple, and Zach graduated from NASCAR Tech. He soon joins the Penske team, which is right there in Mooresville.
Zach is a young man, barely 20 years old. He tidies up the pit, such tasks. One day the boys look for new blood for the pit crew in the Penske garage. You want to know who can change tires quickly. A good crew can change four tires in less than 12 seconds.
It turns out Zach Price is a natural one. He’s not as tall as some of the people who change tires in NASCAR, positions that are often occupied by former soccer players, but as we said, it is: Zach is athletic, strong and explosive.
Until 2014 he worked on the NASCAR Cup series for Joey Logano’s pit crew. He has been there for six years, including the 2018 season in which Logano wins the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Before this season, the people from Team Penske messed things up. Zach Price and his group switched from Joey Logano’s team to Ryan Blaney’s team.
Until then, Zach and Tasha Price had invested part of this NASCAR money in a car wash, the Victory Shine Car Wash in Taylorsville.
“He got involved when his career was over,” Tasha Price told me on Sunday by phone about her home in Taylorsville. “He’s in his mid-30s, so he won’t be doing it long.”
Tasha Price pauses. In about two hours, Team Penske will announce that Zach has been released from Methodist Hospital and will return to North Carolina with the team. At the moment she is waiting to hear about an X-ray. She is not sure what news will come.
“Well,” she says, “I think after today we have to see.”
“Dad was just hit by a car!”
Before Kevin Harvick stops Matt Kenseth at a last minute restart to win the lightning-retarded, crash-damaged, carefully filled Brickyard 400 …
Before the four-time 2020 winner Denny Hamlin slips into the wall in lap 153 of this 161-lap race …
Before Ryan Newman cuts a tire and hits a wall to get out of competition, before Ryan LaJoie’s Ford Mustang No. 32 with the big “Trump 2020” sticker leaves the race with great damage and the hashtag # Brickyard400 on Twitter into a political one transforms discourse…
Before the television cameras found Zach Price on a stretcher in the pit lane, he was lifted into an ambulance, smiled, and gave a thumbs up …
Tasha Price knew. Do you remember that call? It was a member of Blaney’s crew that Tasha called from there in the pit lane and told her that Zach had been injured but would be fine. It was his leg, yes. A possible break. But he was alert and awake.
Where’s the birthday boy anyway? Where’s Maxton? Ah, he’s out there playing with friends on his 10th birthday. Tasha finds her son and takes him inside. She tells him that his father is fine, but something happened in Indiana today. Now she shows him a repetition of the accident. She points her son to Zach. He is watching.
“Oh my god,” Maxton tells his mother. “Dad was just hit by a car!”
Oh well. It happens in this row of pits. A year ago at Brickyard 400 in 2019, another pit row pile – similar to this one – ruined the days of Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Crazy things happen in this row of pits, dangerous things. In the 1982 Indianapolis 500, Gordon Johncock raced into the pits for his last stop, with a competitor rolling into the pits ahead of him. Johncock, who was in no mood to drive at idle – he had a win in mind and actually hit Rick Mears by 0.16 seconds to the checkered flag – shot around the car at nearly 200 mph and screamed inches at one Handful of crew members passing by.
It’s dangerous here. “Warrior,” Ryan Blaney called his pit crew after the race. So Tasha Price’s phone kept ringing on Sunday.
“I just called Zach on the phone,” says Tasha. “He was on the way to the hospital. I asked him if his leg hurt. He said “a little” but he’s in a good mood. He said he was waiting for X-rays to see if he had a fracture. “
And how are you? That’s what I’m asking Zach Price’s wife after a big, beautiful day – her boy’s 10th birthday – took this ugly turn.
“I’ve been fine since I saw him give the thumbs up (on TV),” she says. “He’s a pretty tough guy.”
I imagine Zach Price getting stuck between two racing cars, his helmet and then his body bouncing off the asphalt. I imagine how he uses his good leg, his right leg, to get to safety. Tasha Price can’t see me, but when she tells me that her husband is “a pretty tough guy,” I nod my head.
Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.