Are the Safety Measures NASCAR has implemented enough?

It's been a year of wild crashes, wrecked cars and a few injuries, but no deaths (Thank God)

8/13/09 in NASCAR   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

2009 has been a year of mind numbing crashes, the kind that make you cringe and hold your breath until you can be sure everyone is okay.

It started at the very first race of the year, the Daytona 500.  Dale Earnhardt Jr and Brian Vickers wanted the same real estate and the competition for that space resulted in "the Big One"

The superspeedways are almost a guarantee for those wrecks, and the first visit to Talladega gave us a horrendous crash, resulting in parts of the catch fence being destroyed and a number of the fans being injured. 

Luckily, the drivers walked (or in Carl Edwards' case ran) away.  The changes made to the car in recent years seemed to do the job and although the cars were completely anihialated, the most important cargo, the drivers, were unhurt.  NASCAR discussed changes to the catch fence and moving the seats back to protect the fans, but it was called a once in a lifetime kind of accident.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case, as Geoff Bodine was seriously hurt in an errily similar looking crash at Daytona years earlier.

Back to Daytona, and another accident, this time giving Kyle Busch the ride of a lifetime. 

Again, the driver walked away, even though the car was completely destroyed.  And so it seemed, the COT was doing it's job, as the Safer Barriers were doing theirs.

Then we go to Watkins Glen, a track where horrific accidents are not even considered.    And what do we get? One of those crashes that takes your breath away and had you praying, even if you aren't a religious person.  Two days after the wreck, Jeff Gordon is still sore, and Jeff Burton is still a little stiff.  No wonder, that wreck was truly one of the worst I have ever seen.  The tire barriers at the track clearly do not do their job.

Sam Hornish's Crew Chief says his driver is just fine, and feeling better than any of them had thought he would be after a wreck as serious as this.

The question is, though, are the changes NASCAR has made enough?

The COT was implemented in part to provide better safety to the drivers.  The safer barrier was implemented to absorb the energy of the crash and, again, protect the driver from injury, and both of those actions have succeeded.   It seems, however, that the crashes this year are much worse than what we've seen in years past.  


Are the drivers taking more risks, because they know the safety features in place are better able to protect them?  Or is there something about the COT that is helping create the violent crashes we've seen?  Is it a combination of the two? or something completely different?  I honestly don't know why, but I am sure NASCAR will address it, no matter what the cause. 

What would you do, if you were charged with making racing safer?  Would you change the car?  the tracks? Or would you add restrictor plates to all tracks, or change the engines some other way to slow the cars down?  

Here's your chance to be the expert.  Tell Brian France what YOU would do.

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8/15/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

Off topic, sure, but what the hell - I agree guys, they shouldn't be using their cars to settle their differences, but one of the most well known races is still the first Daytona 500 televised - not for Richard Petty winning, but for the fight afterward.   I love a good fight, show of emotion or trash talking.  That's precisely one the reasons I like Robby Gordon, he doesn't care about the fines and penaltied, if he's p*ssed at another driver, we're gonna know about it.

Now, back ON topic, what can they do, realistically?   Move the seats back at 'dega to protect the fans, put safer barriers in place of tires as WG, but the cars are protecting the drivers much better.   No one has died, and no one has been seriously hurt and that's a good thing.

8/13/09   |   bwfc2good4u   |   327 respect

I think we can all agree that whatever NASCAR does, it won't be enough. They can put all of the safer barriers and catch fences in that they possibly could, but something unexpected will always turn up that raises new questions over the safety of both the fans and drivers. As the sport has progressed, so to has the safety and we should be thankful that no-one has died in competition for a while. In saying that, there was a death in Mexico in the Mexican series and hardly anything was made of with everyone else I could go on, but to in short thank God no-one has died, and lets improve where we can when we can, but whatever NASCAR do there will still be safety issues because 43 guys are racing at 200mph around sometimes as small as 1/2 mile circuits and we're doing okay whatever some people say

8/13/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

As far as your comment that the tire barrier did not do their job, they actually did.  Which is to soften the blow.  Unfortunately the tire barriers at these road courses ALSO act as springs that throw the cars back into traffic, unlike the Safer Barriers that are at the majority of tracks and were installed after so many drivers were injured from crashing into solid walls.  Every year there are horrific wrecks and every year people get up in arms over NASCAR safety but the fact of the matter is more and more drivers are walking away from these wrecks with less and less serious injuries.  One of the dangers of being an auto racer is that you are putting yourself in a 2000 pound projectile and they do not stop on a dime.  I would bet that if all four of these wrecks had happened 10-15 years ago, there would have been very serious injuries, if not death.

Actually, you make a great point, but I don't quite agree.  The job is to absorb the energy, and disipate it in a safe manner, and as you say, the tire barriers rebound the energy (car), so I don't think they do the job NASCAR intends.  Yes, they do soften the blow, but by rebounding the car back onto the track, an argument could be made that the G-forces at work throwing the car (and driver) back out into traffic create an equal, if not greater, threat to the drivers.    

8/13/09   |   Cass3918   |   3 respect

(Edited by Cass3918)

I think each year they have improved the safety significantly. I dont think they will be ever be able to tweak everything to 100%.. I mean these drivers are going at speeds of 150+ mph on average, they know what the risks are.. I dont think theyd get in a car that didnt feel was safe to endure such impacts.  For the most part, yes there have been some bad wrecks but overall very little injuries, that should be satisfactory enough to know lives have been saved!  Just my two cents worth.. LOL

8/13/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

Great article. I have so many opinions about this it would take all day to reply. I always wonder why no one asks if this crash was this serious because of the COT? Just my mind blowing spin on the whole deal. Does double file reStarts add to the amount of these types of crashes? Does NASCAR's famous or infamous "Debris" cautions which bunch up the fields, add to the chances of wrecks like at Talladega? I wish I had all the answer for ya, butr i don't. And even if I did, do you really believe NASCAR wants to listen? I will now take a deep breath and enjoy my beverage.

Exactly, this article could have been three or four pages long, but people get tired of reading, so I threw out a few thoughts/opinions hoping to get some reaction.
I DO think the double file restarts have added to the "danger" on the track, but it has alwo added to the excitement, so at what price? 
And debris - it seems NASCAR is getting smarter about it and even relying on the TV Cameras for show the debris - but not always. 
Damn, you're right, I could go on forever!