Paul Menard's crew and race officials flee after a tire on his car caught fire. (AP)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A fire in the right wheel well of Paul Menard's car meant bad news for his right-rear tire.
Contact on a restart jammed up the field, and Menard ended up with a cut tire, which compounded itself into a fire in the wheel well.
"I guess a bunch of rubber got wrapped up underneath around the axle I guess," Menard said. "Came in a couple of times trying to fix the damage and try to get the rubber off. We didn't get it all and I guess it just caught fire. I didn't really know it until there was a little bit of spark coming in the car and landed on the window net; thought that was kind of weird. About a lap later they said I was on fire, I lost my brakes and then the damn wheel blew right off."
That tire explosion happened as Menard's crew approached his car to inspect the issue. As team members encroached with an extinguisher and fresh tire, the hot fire expanded the air in the tire and it exploded, blowing the wheel off. (You can see in the video that the violence of the pop lifts Menard's car off the ground before it settles to rest.)
While that lap 193 restart proved dangerous for Menard and crew, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth escaped. The field accordioned when Jeff Gordon couldn't get going and Kenseth and Johnson were in the morass of fender-bumping. However, Kenseth escaped without significant damage and Johnson's left-front fender wasn't dented enough to derail his quest for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
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