"A lot of people say NASCAR is boring. Personally, I fail to see how playing bumper cars at 200mph while drifting a 650hp vehicle is boring." - Travis Pastrana
Welcome back race fans , I'm Jen and I will be joined by Eric (gearhead
), Debi (JrCanuckFan
), and Scott
. let's get right to this weeks discussion.
The first races of the season are in the books.
Johnny Sauter won the Camping World Truck Series.
Tony Stewart crossed the finish line as a wreck unfolded behind him. Ragan driving the #7 blocked a move by Brad Keselowski in the #22. Kyle Larson whose car was sheared in half walked away. His front end and engine ended up in the catch fence and the grandstands.Racing is a dangerous sport. As a fan watching the scene unfold, I held my breath. I was taken back to 2001, when Dale Sr., seemingly just bumped the wall, waiting for the net to come down, letting everyone know he was OK. Surely Larson was not going to just get out of the car and walk away. But he did. The safety measures that have been implemented allowed him to drop that net. All the drivers involved, "walked away". Michael Annett, who was involved in an earlier wreck, required an overnight stay in the hospital.
Fastest in practice does not usually translate into a win at Daytona. In practice you are not jockying for position with 42 other guys trying to make history. Whether it is a "first" time or a third time, winning the first race of the season is special. You go into the record books, your car gets impounded and put on display for a year, and you have that extra "oomph" walking around. Ask any seasoned driver, and Daytona is usually on the top of the list of races they would like to win, or holds a special place in their memories when they did win.
Jimmie Johnson takes the win in the 55th running of the Daytona 500. His second 500 win. Did you catch the ear to ear grins? Yes! Daytona is special. The Premier race of the Year.
Back to the Nationwide race:
How does this happen? What can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again?
What does Nascar need to do now?
Debi: I think NASCAR needs to take the time to let the experts determine if there is anything that can be done. They need to look at the cars, seats, fence, track, everything, them make an informed decision based on what is found in the analysis.
Eric:The exact solution probably isn't known yet, and it's probably going to take years of research for a solution to be found. What's frustrating though is that said research hasn't started yet. It's not exactly a secret that there's a risk of fan injury from debris if a car ends up in the catch fence, given that catch fences (and the car's design) cause the cars to break up and debris to go all over the place. Fan injuries and deaths happened before. Despite all that, motorsports has ignored the risk until now. I remember IndyCar drivers calling for a look at catch fencing after Dan Wheldon died, and they were basically laughed at and called whiners by Eddie Gossage.
Scott: I'm not really sure you can do anything more safety wise when it comes to the fences. There is no fence that can be built that can prevent a 3000 pound stock car flying through the air at 200 mph to not disintegrate upon impact. That said, it's obvious Nascar has itself a problem on tracks like Daytona and Talladega because like Eric said, pack racing + speeds reaching 200 mph are a dangerous mix. Unfortunately, I don't see the owner of Daytona and Talladega doing something drastic to alter the track to try and reduce speed. That means the only realistic thing would be for Nascar to implement a new smaller engine package for these super speedways. A smaller engine would produce less horsepower and in theory, slow the cars down. Teams would have to focus more on handling and driving skills instead of drafting and pack racing to get around the track.
Jen: I honestly don't know.
What kind of safety precautions would you like to see implemented?
Eric: Also, I'll say it again, but NASCAR has to look at the safety of pack racing. Running that close together and having double digit car wrecks is not safe. I don't care that these cars have roofs and all the safety features, it is playing with fire, and this time they got burned. Get rid of the packs, and while you can't eliminate the risk of a car in the fence (just like you can never eliminate the risk of fan injury), you can mitigate a lot of that risk and sharply reduce it. This whole thing stems from a failure to assess and mitigate risk. Just like IndyCar with Wheldon, NASCAR ignored the risk and as a result have a disaster on their hands. We'll see what they and the tracks do about it.
This is only sort of related, but I must say I was really disappointed by NASCAR's response. While I get they couldn't talk about the injured's condition at that press conference, it was still very off-putting, antiseptic, and lawyerly. It reeked of CYA. That, plus the flap over getting homemade YouTube videos deleted, plus FOX predictably trying to sweep it under the rug by barely mentioning it during the Daytona 500, plus Keslowski getting called to the principal's office for speaking his mind in USA Today, and well, the whole thing put a sour taste in my mouth. For Start Your Engines, I pretty much have to pay some attention to NASCAR this year. While I can see myself enjoying the on track stock car racing product, this weekend just reminded me why I can not stand the sanctioning body of NASCAR.
Do you think driving in the other series, ie: Truck/Nationwide gives a driver an advantage in the Cup race?
Eric: Determining if there is any benefit to Cup drivers also driving Nationwide or Trucks that weekend sounds like a fascinating research project. Unfortunately I do not have the time nor the patience to do the requisite data mining and interpretation.
Debi: No. Different vehicles drive different ways against different competitors
Scott: I think any time a driver can get into a car and drive laps, especially in a competing race where the other drivers are going all out to to try and win, it gives them an advantage. Does it mean they will win the Sprint Cup race? Usually not. To take it a step further, I'm a firm believer that the Nationwide Series should be for Nationwide drivers and the Sprint Cup Series should be for Sprint Cup drivers. I didn't like it a couple of years ago when Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards were driving for titles in both series' and I don't like it now when the Sprint Cup drivers use the Nationwide race as "practice". The Nationwide series needs to a tool for the next generation of racers to get experience, nothing else.
Jen: I think anytime you can get in the car, you should. Advantage, I don't know.
Looking forward to Phoenix. What can we expect to see?
Eric: I look to wistfully sigh and wish Indy Car still raced at Phoenix. Some day, some day...
Scott: I realize that races at Daytona and Talladega are an anomaly compared to the rest of the tracks on the schedule but the Daytona 500 really came across to me as some what of a "boring" race. Hopefully Phoenix brings some more excitement and a better chance for fans to gauge on what to expect for the rest of the season.
Debi: I'm looking for an entertaining, safe race, nothing more at this point. The drivers will keep on learning what their cars can do and we get to sit back and watch that happen.
Jen: Just another chance to get a look at the new cars.
Do you see any front runners for Champion yet?
Eric: As I mentioned last week, plate racing is so different than anything else that trying to extrapolate the results from those races to everything else is probably not a good idea. That said, we should probably give a close look to that Johnson guy.
Scott: Even if he hadn't won the race, Jimmie Johnson is always a contender to win the title. Other then that, I don't really think Daytona offers us a realistic look at which drivers are going to be front runners this season. The race is a crap shoot where usually the winning car is not the dominant one, but the lucky one that is able to survive. In the long run though, I still think the Toyota trio of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are going to be a force this season.
Jen: Not just yet.