Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On media buzzwords, aggressive driving zones, keeping cars on the ground, and Martin's first flip

The buzz word among the NASCAR media throughout the 2009 season has been safety. You can't read anyone's work without seeing those six letters repeated over and over. Every time there is an accident some writer must make the now-inevitable comment that the car formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow is much safer than its predecessor and that the driver(s) involved would surely be seriously injured - or much worse - in the previous generation racecar.

Once again racing at Talladega generated a couple of spectacular accidents. And once more, every serious NASCAR journalist offers their opinion that Ryan Newman and Mark Martin would surely be injured if their trip to upside-down world happened in the old style car.


Sure, the new car does a good job protecting the drivers. But to say the drivers involved would have been seriously injured in the old-style car is just plain wrong. Any cursory search of YouTube with "Talladega crash" will show you dozens of instances of cars getting upside down at the 2.66-mile monster and the driver popping out uninjured. From Ken Schrader's wicked tumble down the backstretch in 1995 to Ricky Craven's ride up the turn one banking and into the catch fence to Elliott Sadler's twin tumbles in 2004 and 2005, the old car proved plenty safe.

The real heroes aren't the designers of the CoT; rather they are the people who worked behind the scenes and developed the HANS device and the SAFER barrier.

- So NASCAR has made the entire track at Talladega an "aggressive driving zone". Isn't that what racing is, aggressive driving? Again, the buzzword "safety" pops up and further neuters the sport. I know NASCAR thinks what it's doing is in the best interest of the sport, but in reality it's the exact opposite.

NASCAR and the drivers need to wake up and realize that stock car racing (and any form of motorsport) is an inherently dangerous activity. If the drivers are complaining to the sanctioning body about aggressive bump drafting being too dangerous, well, maybe it's time for those drivers to take the multiple millions of dollars they have earned and retire to the safety of their Lake Norman mansions.

Racing cars should be about the bravest of the brave driving so deep into the corner he doesn't know if he'll make it out the other side. If Jeff Gordon doesn't want to bump draft, he can control it by not doing it. And if he doesn't want someone to bump him from behind, he can run at the back of the pack all day. NASCAR doesn't need to police what goes on on the track any more that it already does - and even that is too much with the ridiculous yellow line rule.

Let the drivers race, and let those that don't want to find some other way to spend their weekends.

- What can NASCAR do to prevent cars from getting airborne at Daytona and Talladega? It's simple. Leave them in the garage. How many millions of dollars have been spent in researching this perceived problem? It's impossible to guess. It will never be solved, either. Whether it's due to aerodynamics (Ryan Newman) or car-to-car contact (Mark Martin) cars will turn over from time to time.

- Some journalist reported on Monday that Mark Martin's flip at Talladega was the first time in his career he's been upside down. Wrong. Martin ended up on his lid in the inaugural Cup race at Sears Point in 1989. Martin lost a tire and spun into the tire barrier in turn 1, which kicked the car up and gently rolled it onto its roof. Martin has never been on his head at Daytona or Talladega before Sunday, but came close when he stood his Ford on it's nose in a wild ride down the backstretch at Talladega in May 1991.


  1. Thank you! I have been so annoyed by the way the drivers and media talk as if this new car is the only thing between drivers and disaster, totally ignoring the other safety considerations that came long before the COT. There is no way to make driving a car as excessive speeds on a track totally safe. I would imagine that is one of the attractions. Not just for fans watching in amazement that anyone would risk life and limb to to it, but for any driver that climbs into a race car. Thinking back to Dale Sr.'s comment about kerosene soaked rags, things sure have changed.

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