NASCAR returned to TV screens across the world as the popular racing series resumed action in Darlington. But one driver had a day to forget, after smashing his car out of the race on the very first lap.
The NASCAR series had been put on hold for 10 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic as the roaring engines of the racing championship were silenced by the coronavirus.
But there was an air of triumph as the huge snake of cars crossed the start line at the Darlington Raceway as racing resumed in the United States on Sunday.
However, what was a euphoric start quickly turned to embarrassment for one NASCAR driver, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. lost control of his car and smashed into a concrete wall, destroying the front of his car and eliminating himself from the race on the very first lap.
RETWEET IF YOU’RE WATCHING! WE ARE RACING AT DARLINGTON.(That didn’t take long … trouble for Stenhouse on the first lap) pic.twitter.com/DEQyT6w8ug
Well, that was not ideal. @StenhouseJr crashes early in #TheRealHeroes 400. pic.twitter.com/sjJfazAZEU
The race was held without the usual practice and qualifying sessions, and that may have been a contributing factor, but Stenhouse admitted afterwards that the error was entirely his, as he apologized to his fans and his team in a post-race video on his social media.
“Pretty embarrassing for myself, our team, my crew guys — I feel awful for them,” he said.
“They put a lot of hard work into getting our cars ready and coming all the way down here to Darlington, and then to put myself in a bad spot there… ended our race before it ever started.”
Not a whole lot to say. Put myself in a bad spot to start the race. Embarrassing for myself and my team. We will be ready for Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/k1C0nBlO1I
The race was won by Kevin Harvick, who admitted it was a bizarre feeling to cross the winning line and be greeted by total silence from the stands, which are usually packed with crowds of more than 100,000 fans.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that much different and then we won the race and it is dead silent out here, so we miss the fans,” said Harvick after claiming his 50th career race win.
“It is weird just because there is nobody up there.
“Usually you get out of the car and the crowd is screaming and yelling … today it was like, well, I don’t know really what to do here.
“We got done, everybody left!”