Sunday, April 26, 2009

Will It Take Tragedy And Death To Change Racing At Talladega?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) congratulates Brad Keselowski on his first Sprint Cup Series win in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jerry Bonkowski

A blind man could see that restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway has been a disaster waiting to happen.

Sunday, those of us with normal vision came far too close to seeing that disaster play out, something I pray we never get close to seeing ever again.

For more than 20 years, NASCAR has utilized horsepower robbing restrictor plates on carburetors to make racing "safer" at Talladega and Daytona by slowing down cars and taking speed control away from drivers, essentially making all cars artificially controlled.

In the process, the continued use of restrictor plates has actually made racing, particularly on Talladega's 2.66-mile, high-banked and high-speed oval, more dangerous. Some have gone so far as to call racing at 'Dega a tragedy waiting to happen.

In Sunday's Aarons 499, we came far too close for comfort – arguably closer than we ever have since plates came into use in 1988. How many more brushes with disaster does NASCAR need? It's time the sanctioning body finally does something to fix the problem.

Sure, we've all ooohed and aaahed at some of the spectacular wrecks that have occurred at 'Dega over the years. The track could easily start its own Who's Who of drivers that have had horrific, end-over-end wrecks there, including now-retired Rusty Wallace, Ricky Craven and Bobby Allison, as well as the late Dale Earnhardt, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Newman, and even as recently as Saturday's Nationwide Series race, when Cup regular Matt Kenseth went on one of the biggest rides of his life.

Most drivers have even walked away unscathed after their death-defying wrecks.

But Sunday, we barely avoided turning Carl Edwards into a cripple or worse (more on that later), let alone put several innocent fans in the hospital.

"NASCAR just puts us in this box," Edwards said after the race. "We'll just race like this until we kill somebody and then they'll change it."

NASCAR may have the insolence to think that with all the safety innovations that have arisen since the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, that the sport is virtually bulletproof. And watching how Edwards walked away from the most terrifying wreck of his career once again proved just how effective those safety improvements have been.

But Sunday showed tragedy is still possible, not just on the racetrack, but in an area that is supposed to be immune from on-track damage: in the stands.

That several fans were lucky enough just to be injured – and thankfully, not killed – at the end of Sunday's race is both a miracle and hopefully the wake-up call that chairman Brian France and NASCAR need.

Sure, France or one of his spokesmen can lament that the way Edwards' car went airborne, almost crashed through the catchfence and showered fans in the first few rows with hot metal, shrapnel and assorted parts and debris was merely a freak occurrence.

Try to use that as comfort to the families of those fans who went to the track Sunday morning anticipating an exciting race and finish, likely never dreaming that they'd leave later that afternoon in either an ambulance or medical helicopter.

It's a miracle some didn't leave in a body bag or hearse.

Sure, NASCAR and speedway officials can fall back on legalese and say that every ticket has a small-print disclaimer that says the sanctioning body, the track and anyone associated with either is immune from negligence or blame in the event of an incident like we saw Sunday.

They can add that fans understand the risk that they're undertaking when they pull out their cash or credit card to purchase a ticket.

But come on now, do fans REALLY read the fine print? Do they ever in their wildest dreams think that they'll be injured by flying debris? Of course not. Maybe they might get hit on the head by a beer can thrown by disgruntled fans of a driver, but that's about as serious as it gets.

I can almost guarantee that many of those fans injured Sunday will likely have spoken to attorneys by tomorrow, and that legal action is likely in the offing – small print/disclaimer on the back of the tickets or not.

But if a good lawyer can poke loopholes in that disclaimer, NASCAR and France could be on the hook for damages for not protecting the fans strongly enough.

A good place any lawyer might start is the aberration of restrictor plate racing. There's certainly a ton of precedent, with all the drivers that have experienced barrel rolls and end-over-end flips at both Talladega and Daytona International Speedway, the only two tracks on the circuit that require restrictor plates.

The reason for the requirement is to hold down horsepower and speed, so that cars can "safely" race at speeds approaching 200 mph.

I'm sorry, but there is no place on God's green earth that ANY type of race car can consistently race "safely" at 200 mph or more, not NASCAR, Formula One or NHRA, where speeds oftentimes close in on 330 mph.

I've seen dozens of races at Talladega and Daytona, both in-person and on TV, yet nothing has ever scared me more than what we saw Sunday.

What's more, NASCAR applauded the man who started what could have been sheer carnage – rookie Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski – by toasting him in victory lane, when they should have disqualified him for aggressive driving at the very least.

If one of us did the same thing on a public highway that Keselowski did to Edwards, we would be convicted for road rage at the least, and potentially involuntary manslaughter at the worst.

Hear me out here. In virtually the same exact type of incident – without the resulting flipping car – Dale Earnhardt Jr. punted Brian Vickers in the season opener and he was roundly vilified for such a move.

What's the difference with what Keselowski did, then?

I understand that rubbin's racin', and all that jazz, but when a driver INTENTIONALLY spins the driver ahead of him to win the race, there's something wrong with that. He should not be rewarded with the victory.

Edwards was in the lead, Keselowski came up and drove directly into Edwards' left rear bumper, knocking him out of the way and then sending him flying first across the front of Ryan Newman's car and then slamming broadside into the catchfence. What would have happened if Newman had been killed or seriously injured by Edwards' flying wreck? Do we just chalk it up to just "racin' at 'Dega"?

Where do you draw the line between safe racing and stupid racing? Everyone in the stands and pretty much everyone watching on TV knew Keselowski was going to go for the win – and if it meant spinning Edwards, so be it.

Edwards did what he was supposed to do, to block Keselowski, while Keselowski said he wasn't going to let Edwards force him below the yellow "no-passing" line at Talladega, claiming he didn't have much of a choice.

"He blocked and I wasn't going below it," Keselowski said in victory lane. "I didn't want to wreck a guy, but you're forced to in that situation."

Even though Keselowski still had more than a car width between Edwards' car and the yellow line, he could have chosen to dip down a little more and would have still been within the rules – as long as he didn't pass Edwards under that same yellow line.

Keselowski could also have backed off, but chose not to. So, he simply ran into Edwards, wrecked him and gleefully motored on to victory lane to celebrate the first Cup win of his career.

But what would have happened if several fans would have died as a result of Keselowski's win-at-all-costs strategy? Is a win that crucial if someone perishes because of one driver's stupidity and insolent greed to get his first career Cup checkered flag?

"(Edwards) knows the rule," Keselowski said. "He put himself in that spot."

So, let's see: Keselowski admits he intentionally wrecked Edwards, he blames Edwards for putting "himself in that spot," and several fans are hurt by flying debris (fortunately, according to early reports, none seriously or with life-threatening injuries).

I don't know about you, but all that sure sounds like one of NASCAR's favorite penalties that it likes to hand out: actions detrimental to stock car racing.

In his ill-begotten bid to win, Keselowski was more than willing to risk Edwards' life, Newman's life and numerous fans' lives for a trophy and a paycheck.

If someone would have been killed or more seriously hurt, tell me honestly, would all that have been worth it in the big picture? The resulting public outcry would have damaged NASCAR for many years, if not decades, to come.

Even Edwards is counting his blessings that he wasn't hurt more seriously than just suffering a few bumps. He could have wound up never racing again.

"I'm very fortunate," he said. "We hit the wall in a way that it didn't crush my roll cage down on my neck, because that would have been a lot worse."

When is NASCAR chairman Brian France going to wake up and realize that a trailing driver INTENTIONALLY ramming a car that is in the lead at more than 190 mph, spinning him out of the way and running the risk of serious injury or death to that driver and fans, may be good theater but it is not clean racing?

Just because guys like the late Dale Earnhardt did it so many times still doesn't make it right. Do drivers prove how macho they are by wrecking a fellow competitor?

But for the grace of God and some reinforced concrete, steel and thick wire, Sunday could have become one of the biggest disasters in NASCAR history – at a time when anything negative is the last thing the struggling sport and sanctioning body need.

NASCAR dodged a huge bullet Sunday, one that should be the final and ultimate wakeup call to either remove restrictor plates altogether, or mandate the use of smaller, less powerful motors (sans plates) so that we never, ever have to see a debacle like we did Sunday at 'Dega.


  1. Many will agree to disagree on whether Brad had the space or not... and maybe that 'buzz' will actually liven up the buzz around NASCAR as a whole.

    But the one thing that we do have to debate after 4 hours of 3 and 4 wide racing at 'dega is, 'Just What is 'Great Racing'? So far in 2009, we've seen everything from snooze fests to controlled bumper car parades at Bristol and restrictor plate madness and the differences between the types of racing we've seen are countless.

    So, if you'd like to chime in just what 'great racing' is, click on our name and check out the Random Thoughts from Racing In to join the debate about just what is 'Great Racing'.

    And as always, our kudos to Jerry B for great columns and never backing down from his position. Good writers can write anything, but GREAT writers believe what they're writing regardless of how they're challenged.

    Cheers JB!

  2. You obviously didn't see the Keselowski/Edwards incident as clearly as either driver or those of us watching it on Fox did-your statement "Keselowski admits he intentionally wrecked Edwards" is not true. Keselowski clearly had the position and Edwards freely admitted he shouldn't have tried to cut over and block him after he had left too much of an opening at the bottom of the track. Both referenced Tony Stewart's prior win due to Ragan's going below the yellow line in describing the accident.
    If you want to place blame-between the restrictor plates and the apparently etched in stone yellow line rule you have ample reasons that can be easily changed by NASCAR if they so chose to. You could even blame Edwards' spotter for not warning him that the car had gotten a nose past Carl. But in no way could you blame Keselowski here-no one on the Sprint Cup circuit is going to back down when an opening to take the lead on the last lap opens up.

  3. While I respect your opinion, ethiessen1, Keselowski admitted he intentionally wrecked Carl: "I didn't want to wreck a guy, but you're forced to in that situation."

    That's pretty clear-cut to me.

    And I'm willing to bet that Carl changes his tune when watches the video again.

    Also, look at the video again frame by frame. Yes, Carl came down somewhat on Keselowski, but watch Brad's tires. His right front fender clearly drove right into Carl's left rear.

    But perhaps the point I wanted to convey the most is more so the safety element of how NASCAR has to change racing at Talladega, lest we will one day soon be mourning a driver, a fan or both.

    Thanks for writing!

  4. The Big One(a) a few minutes in. Choo-choo train racing for 3 hours. The Big One(b) with 10 laps left. Choo-choo train racing until the 09 spun the hell out of the 99 with about 100 yards to go. Exciting? Maybe to the casual fan who sees the "highlights" on Sportscenter and listens to some well-coifed tapehead say it was exciting. The real fan knows this was an abomination.

  5. I hate Daytona and Talladega for just this reason. Everybody hypes "the big one". Maybe I'm weird but i like to watch racing, not accidents. There's not a lot of racing going on when cars are 3 wide and 10 deep. Just a 195 mile an hour traffic jam.

    Since all the teams spend so much time and money on their restrictor plate program, lets just knock their engines down about 50 c.i.d. and get rid of plates. They are spending the money on the engines already,let them spend it on a smaller engine.

  6. I put the blame on NASCAR. The yellow line rule is responsible for that wreck, so why not either modify or completely scrap that rule. For a rule about "safety", it obviously isn't very safe. Hopefully Talladega and Daytona will at least add about 25 more feet to the fences and design them so large pieces of debris can't fly through the fence like they did today.

  7. There are a lot of factors at fault and it some would have been hurt we would be sitting here saying this and that were the cause and all are factors including the plates, yellow line rule, catch fences and the safety of the cars.

    If drivers are so concerned, why don't they just skip these races, if a driver is positioned well to get into the chase they could theoretically skips every plate race except 'Dega in the fall. I know this will never happen and it's kind of a cop out.

    We also have to think about the situation NASCAR is in. What can you do? I say getting rid of the yellow line rule for the last lap will be a start, but the problem still exists. As a fan, yes I do like great racing that occurs at place like Michigan to Texas to 'Dega and Daytona, how can you not. The people with the best cars will eventually get to the front (if they don't get involved in the big one). It is thrilling to watch. Maybe a solution is to run two heat races of 23 or so cars and bring the top 12 from each to the "main event" and go from there. You could base it off qualifying times like the Duel 150s to reduce pack sizes. Again the main problem is still there.

    Plus, I think we all have to realize will NASCAR do anything, probably not they are a slow moving sports entity that has never done anything on a whim. But we also shouldn't sit here and think that they are money grubbing people (well maybe they are), but I believe they truly do care about their drivers and fans.

  8. Funny thing. Most of the fans I talked to after this race thought it was great. Most of the media op/eds so far have been the opposite.

    Pretty typical, over-reactive, hands-wrung-raw garbage from the press. But this article is so bad, not just in its take but also in its technical execution, that I can barely contain myself.

    In case you missed it, Jerry, Carl Edwards walked away 100 percent unscathed. He didn't "miraculously" walk away. He walked away like pretty much everyone has walked away from a NASCAR wreck since 2001. Injuries are few and far between now. Check Robby Gordon's header a few laps earlier for more evidence. The safety measures work.

    If you're that concerned about fan safety, clear the first 20 rows of the grandstands and move the crowd up. Goodness knows there are enough empty seats at NASCAR races these days that the proprietors can find a place to put these people.

    At what point racing was supposed to be 100 percent safe, I don't know. These are two-ton cars running at airplane speeds around a racetrack and death and injury is going to happen. If you want to be upset, be upset at human nature. The element of danger is part of why people watch this even if they won't admit to it. As long as there is racing there are going to be people put at risk -- and your gratuitous comments about ambulance-chasing attorneys was about as necessary as air conditioning in Siberia. Of course people are going to sue -- they'll sue these days if their Coke doesn't have enough fizz. When it stops being dangerous, crowds will shrink, not grow.

    What matters here is the measurement of how safe racing is now versus what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. There's no way I can make this point without sounding like I'm downplaying what happened today, but so be it: Eight people treated for minor injuries, only one of them notable, compares in no way to Pierre Levegh at Le Mans or even Salt Walther's wreck at Indy (the latter of which killed no fans, but hurt several). We're only 10 years removed from two separate IRL incidents that killed a total of 6 and injured 14 at Michigan and LMS. Driver-wise, it's major news when any driver in any series is lost, but Indy used to kill a driver a year for a time.

    The point to make here is that between angled catch fencing, roof flaps and plates, we've achieved racing at Daytona and Talladega that people love to watch, and that is 99.9x percent safe to all involved. That's about as far as racing can go without making it artificially safe.

    It's on the track, then. Either move the fans back, or don't. The motorsports press rushing to incite a panic among race-going fans, though, is nothing short of dishonest and disingenuous.

  9. Maybe Jimmie Johnson said it best..."It sucks racing here." My huband and I observed that the drivers don't seem to talk about the fun of racing Talledega like they do at other tracks. While it can be exciting, it doesn't seem to be truly "racing" when the only way you can get to the front is with pushes from others and when tons of cars can be taken out 7 laps in. I'm so glad Carl is all right and I'm sorry for the fans that were hurt...thank God it wasn't worse. I agree...I think it's time for NASCAR to revisit restrictor plate racing.

  10. Brad was remembering back to last year when Regan Smith went below the yellow line and lost a race he should have won. So Brad held his position and Carl pulled a blocking manuever that caused him to wreck himself. Both drivers admitted their reasoning for what they did.

    Glad to see Carl is alright. Hope all the fans injured will be ok. But, look for lawsuits and lawyers lining up to sue NASCAR dispite what is stated on the tickets!!

  11. Brad K held his was Carl Edwards who sealed his own fate with his second quick blocking move. And as someone who's enjoyed your writing for years..I am a bit surprised by your condemnation of Brad K but it does show that many people can watch the exact same crash and come away with completely different opinions. The only person to blame is NASCAR who defined and re-defined the double line rule at 'Dega'. Both Brad and Carl were simply trying to function in the tiny box painted them by NASCAR and the Regan Smith/Tony Stewart nonsense last year.

  12. I don't think it is fair to blame Kesolowski. Edwards had a choice to lift or at the very least, not try to block. Kesolowki held his line. If Edward had not come down it would have been a drag race to the finish but I guess Edward didn't want that.

    I thought Regan Smith should have won last year. NASCAR can't have it both ways and they can't expect a guy that has a chance to win a race (especially their first race) to lift and give it all up.

  13. Jerry,

    I had the exact same thoughts of you initially. And re-watching the video. I still do. Disgusting and stomach turning.


  14. In response to Anonymous, who sent his comment at 3:41 a.m., let's look at a few things in your missive, the least of which is I at least have the guts to put my name out there with my comments, not hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

    So, let's go through your assessment of things:

    * Of course, fans are going to think the race and especially it's outcome was great. They used to think that when the Christians and Lions did battle, too, with the Lions typically emerging victorious. The reason most of the media/op-eds as you put it were 180 degrees different is pretty simple: they aren't skewed by loyalty to a driver or team, in essence looking strictly at the event.

    What would have happened if the catchfence did not hold? What would have happened if the eight injuries wound up being 80, and they were far more serious than those that were actually injured. I'm sorry, but even one fan getting hurt at a race is one too many.

    Yes, Carl walked away unscathed -- this time. Who is to say the next time, he or any other driver will be able to do so? Regardless of what you say about NASCAR safety improvements since 2001, none of those devices is completely foolproof. That was one of my most significant points: if we put all our faith in safety devices, believing everyone is infallible of being injured, we're only setting ourself up for a big wakeup call. What do we do then? You say the safety measures work. For the most part, yes, they do, but should we be lulled into a false sense of security and not address something that is a long time coming in addressing, namely, the safety aspects of racing with restrictor plates at Talladega and Daytona.

    We've become so wrapped up in the glory gore of "the big one," anxiously waiting for one or more to happen in a single race, that we lose sight of the safety elements and aspects.

    I admit I do agree with your point about clearing the first 20 rows for fan safety, but is that really realistic? NASCAR puts a premium on up-close seating, and fans are more than willing to pay that premium, even if it comes with a price tag like we saw Sunday.

    You also comment about safety, yet in a sense, you're contradicting yourself. You talk about Indy and the two IRL events where six people were killed. Yet, what happened Sunday at Talladega could very easily have been added to that list had that catchfence not held.

    Racing at Talladega has become a failed physics experiment. We have seen far too often that cars "get air" under them and they wind up like a roulette wheel: round and round they go, where they stop (and how), nobody knows. I'm sorry, but I'm not willing to lose even one life anymore. If the style of racing, the aerodynamics of racing and the danger of racing at Talladega far outweigh the actual competition, then there's a huge problem. And one day soon, that huge problem could become a huge disaster unless it is fixed.

    What's so hard or difficult to require smaller motors that would keep speeds more manageable and not toe the line on the possible disastrous consequences of cars going airborne either on the track or into the stands? I'll take engines that churn out 100 less horsepower and 20 less mph, if they increase the safety factor in-turn, any day.

    You use a very short-sighted analogy that because, as you say, racing is 99.9 percent safe, that everything is blue skies and sunshine racing at Talladega. I beg to differ with you, many more also beg to differ with you, and the eight people that were hurt would also beg to differ with you.

    When you put "the race" ahead of safety of drivers or fans, you're doing the sport a huge disservice, casting a blind eye on what could have happened yesterday. No one in the press is inciting a panic: they're simply telling it like it is. Let's see what your thoughts are if, say, a Dale Earnhardt Jr. or a dozen fans are killed at Talladega in the future.

    What, are you just going to throw up your hands and say, "That's racin'"? That, in my opinion, is much more short-sighted than any "panic" a logical, factual and reasonable, independent observation of what happened Sunday could ever do.

  15. What rules changes do the drivers want for Dega, Jerry. It seems to me that the yellow line rule should be waived for the last lap, and the restrictor plates have to go. Should they just put in Nationwide motors to keep the speeds down? Can a simple and objective no-blocking rule be fashioned for Dega?

  16. Mark: I agree that the yellow line must go. Some say it should only come into play on the last lap or last few laps, but I don't see how that would necessarily solve the problem.

    I like your idea about Nationwide motors, but as we saw with Matt Kenseth flipping on Saturday, I have to wonder if that would really be a good solution. Maybe we need Nationwide motors that are detuned to only, say, 500 horsepower. That way, speeds would drop appreciably to the 170mph range. I think we'd still have good racing at that point, and we certainly would increase the safety factor.

    As for the no-blocking rule, I disagree. What there should be is a rule that if the trailing driver intentionally wrecks the lead driver in the last, say, five laps, to earn the win, then that driver should be penalized for aggressive driving and be disqualified from that race, regardless if he goes on to "win" or not.

    Thanks for writing, Mark, and everyone else. ....


  17. I agree with Anonymous 7:09a.m. Every driver with a chance to win had Regan Smith on their minds at the end of the race. In the interest of safety, Regan Smith moved below the yellow line, only to be punished. Brad K. had to do what he had to do, per NASCAR rules. It's sad, but true.

  18. We have become a country full of limp-wristed, bleeding heart girly-men! I've never heard so much mealy-mouthed dribble in all my life. Folks, NASCAR is a sport for men, by men, and with manly consequences. We've got grease, gas, oil, speed, metal, & gears all flying around asphalt at 180+ mph. with 9000+ rpm''s a tough, rough sport. The fans show up (and are not forced) to sit behind cabled metal fencing about 20 feet from these machined to protect them. What does everyone expect? Fans and drivers have been hurt and killed at many tracks around this country. The only real solution is to shut down racing of all types for good. Is that what everyone wants??? Let's all quit being so freakin' limp-wristed. We're the nation that stormed the beaches of Normandy, conquered the Battle of the Bulge, killed over 600,000 of our own in the Civil War, & almost froze to death at Valley Forge, AND WE CAN'T HANDLE A DADGUMMED RESTRICTOR RACETRACK. I'ts almost embarrassing!!!!

  19. Jerry, I agree with most of the posters here today, and must disagree with you on this one. "Michele" summed it up: They ALL had Regan Smith on their minds. Before you go and hang Brad K up by his thumbs, take another close look at last year's finish: Smith moved up - Stewart blocked; Smith moved down - Stewart blocked, but forced Smith below the line. If Smith had held his line, it would have been Stewart spinning out and wrecking, guaranteed. Give Regan Smith a lot of credit for avoiding a terrible wreck by allowing Stewart to push him past the yellow line. All of the those drivers had that finish in their minds and were even reminded of it in the driver's meeting. I don't blame Brad one bit for holding his line: He tried moving up - Edwards blocked; he tried moving down - Edwards blocked, but bumped him. It had to be scary for Brad, but he probably white-knuckled the steering wheel and held his breath and kept the foot to the floor, as well he should have. I watched the whole race and saw some of the most blatant, obnoxious blocking ever seen: Kyle Busch was all over the track blocking everyone who came close to him - I'm surprised he didn't spawn a "big one". I kept saying that the way these drivers have to drive staring at their mirrors instead of what's in front of them would inevitably cause more wrecks, and it did. Such is Talladega. Such is plate racing. This is why I've told my wife that I would be quite willing to visit all of the Cup tracks...except Talladega. Choochoo train racing with the occasional derailment is just not entertaining to me.

  20. There is a difference in blocking a driver behind you and pulling down on a car that has a fender inside your rear quarter panel. You could call it driver error or aggressive driving on both drivers. Nascar put this in motion with Stewart being given the win after forcing Reagan Smith below the yellow line. If Reagan had held his line last year you would have seen a similar accident. A driver that blocks or forces a driver below the yellow line should be penalized, not given the win.
    Edwards did not have to move down. He could have held his line and drag raced Kesloweski to the finish line. Same thing for Brad. He could have went down half a lane but who is to say Edwards would have not kept pushing Brad until he was below the yellow line.
    Racing at Talledega has existed since 1969. I have owned tickets in the OV HIll North section, the front stretch tri-oval where the wreck occured, since the track openned. I can only recall 2 cars making it into the catch fence in 79 races that have been run there. It is not the track at fault, Nascar is.

  21. I have to agree with Jerry on almost every point made. But, I also have to side with the drivers for NASCAR’s rules do not have any grey area. The problem, in my mind, with the crash all stems from the “Yellow Line” rule. Everybody knew that Brad was going to try to pass Carl. Everybody knew, by past presidents, what the ruling would be if Brad drove below the yellow line. Everyone also knows that the second car in the draft will usually have some aero advantage when it pulls out of line.
    The worst case scenario came together on Sunday. Two cars, running in the draft, for more than a full lap, with maximum speed through the tri-oval got together. I don’t blame Brad, I don’t blame Carl. If the yellow line rule was not in place, I don’t think there would have been a wreck. If NASCAR wants to still use restrictor plates, then ‘Dega and Daytona need to have inside walls. That would pretty much get rid of any, ANY, confusion on where you can and cannot drive. Of course this would make no sense at the two largest and fastest tracks, and would lead to more wrecks, but maybe that’s what NASCAR wanted all along.

  22. This may be a bit off subject, but how did the 88 get past the 39 when the accident started? I know the 39 was involved in the wreck, but doesn't NASCAR score from different area's around the track? The 39 was in front of the 88 when the accident started, therefore the 88 shouldn't have been allowed to advance his position.
    Am I right in thinking this way?

  23. Anonymous 1:24

    NASCAR rules state that to calculate Jr's position, always add one or more to the actual position on the track.

    Actually, it's based on position when the caution is thrown.

    And NASCAR rules state that the proper time to throw caution is when most advantageous to jr. (See Bristol)

  24. Jerry,

    At Talladega, you have two choices: You either close down what is arguably NASCAR's greatest show other than perhaps Daytona, or you slow everyone down to 160 and end up with another Pocono.

    If the aim here is to create an environment that is guaranteed as safe for all, you're going to end up with something no one wants to pay to see. Your comparison to the Christians vs. the lions is very apropos, considering automobile racing is the reasonable extension of chariot racing. It's been dangerous back to the time of chariots and that is part of its selling point. When it stops being dangerous, it stops being interesting.

    As far as whether the tracks want to sell at-the-fence seating, that's their choice. They can balance fears of litigation against the bottom line.

    Instead, you're arguing that two catch-fence incidents in 21 years -- with no deaths in either and no driver injury in either -- constitute a major emergency. It doesn't. The reason I listed the IRL incidents is to point out that it's impossible to ensure safety at a track. IRL was supposedly made safe from debris incidents as a result of the Bettenhausen-Guerrero race in 1987 at Indy that resulted in tire tethers, but it didn't do the trick.

    Either accept this sport is unique and very dangerous, or quit watching and participating. It's very simple.

  25. Jerry, i dissagree, Brad did nothing wrong. He was below Edwards, so Edwards blocked him. Yes,Keseloski turned his wheels up, after being hit. The force from making contact with Carl pushed him to the yellow line, so he had to move up or get penelized.
    Your right that something should change on the 2.5 tracks. However, at most tracks there is a danger of being caught up in someone elses wreck. Bristol and Martinsvile have chain reaction crashes, at low speeds. Nascar needs to develop a way to create exiting racing, like Talledaga, but a safer. Also, I disagree about speeds. 200 is a good speed for Daytona, but there should be changes in speed, 170 in the corners, 190 on the tri oval, 200 on the straigthts. My least favroite things about Trucks are the slow speeds.

  26. The biggest fan injury was likely caused by the PA speaker - which should NOT have been on the top of the catch fence. Catch fence is for keeping cars on the track, not for holding speakers... All tracks should immediately take a look at what they have hanging on their catch fences and remove everything (including PA speakers, seat signs, ads, etc.) not part of the actual catch fence system.

  27. I am disappointed to see a classic example of mainstream racing reporting - when in doubt bash NASCAR and never let the facts interfere with a good story. Even Carl E admitted that the wreck likely would not have occurred had he not tried to block Brad K a 2nd time. Carl was at least as much, if not more, to blame for the wreck as Brad. Racing and watching racing will never be 100% safe, nor safe enough - but, of course the cardinal rule of today's journalism is that it is always all NASCAR's fault. As I recall the yellow line rule was instituted for safety reasons to keep cars from being shot back up off the apron into traffic. NASCAR and all the track operators can never be vigilant enough about safety - but that does not mean that 2 of fans' favorite tracks should be shut down. Robert Yates said years ago that Cup motors needed to be downsized and that would probably also make the COT run better, just as soon as the economy allows.

  28. Jerry, I have to agree with the others defending Brad. Just because he said something in the heat of Victory Lane doesn't mean that the video tape is invalid. It is crystal clear in the pictures that Carl was the victim of a nice crossover move. Brad got to the spot first and Carl came down on him. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a replay monitor in Victory Lane.

    I did find his initial fans comment in Victory Lane a little eye-opening, but it's possible that he didn't know the full story yet.

  29. Jerry, A man called into "Windtunnel" last night to tell Dave that Nascar should adopt the Indy Car and F1 "NO BLOCKING RULE". It would have eliminated Carl's wreck yesterday, Kyle's going off Jeff's bumper, Vicker's blocking Jr. at Daytona, etc..
    Marybeth Wallick
    PS Can you shed any light on this...?

    “ 4/27/09
    Jeff said…
    did anyone on fox comment about Kyle Busch running into Brad Kesolowski after the race? It happened right in front of me and no one around us could figure out why Kyle was mad at him. I heard that DW said it was an accident but Kyle was on the the throttle when he turned him so I don’t really buy that.
    April 27, 2009 2:11 AM”
    Can we expect Kyle to put on probation tomorrow...?

  30. I agree with you Jerry, that Daytona and Talladega are just too dangerous to race on. If NASCAR needs a yellow line rule and restrictor plates then perhaps that they shouldn't be racing at those tracks in the first place.

    But I will disagree with you on Keselowski. It wasn't his fault. Carl was blocking and that's why he wrecked. It's the same reason that Kyle got wrecked. If Carl holds his line when Brad goes high then none of this happens. Carl's constant blocking is what got him wrecked.

    And this is from someone that hates everything associated with Dale Jr. including his proteges. If anything I should want to blame Brad but even I can't blame him for the wreck in this case.

  31. "did anyone on fox comment about Kyle Busch running into Brad Kesolowski after the race?"

    It looked like Keselowski was so caught up in the moment that he drifted up the track and right into Busch's way. They showed a couple of replays of it on Fox and I don't know where you saw Kyle "was on the throttle", in fact Busch swerved to his right to get out of the way but Keselowski kept going up so there was nowhere for him to go.

    Kyle Busch may be a horse's rear end sometimes, but in this case I didn't see anything to warrant putting him on probation.

  32. Overra88ted said... Jr. gave a "victory slam" to the left side of Brad's car, sending Brad's car to the right, directly in front of Kyle's car.

  33. I also don't agree with blaming Keselowski. He's a rookie, looking for his first win, racing for James Finch, who's team hasn't won in 16 years of cup racing. Also bump and runs are part of racing plain and simple, here's a link to a youtube video of Carl Edwards talking about doing it to Kyle Busch

    2nd That was a great race. I watched every lap. And here I read people saying that it was a choo-choo train race? 20 laps max, so spare me. 80% or more was either two or 3-4 wide. Yeah your right, I'd rather see half the field a lap down with the leader a half mile ahead, much more exciting.

    Now you could say that "This must be a Jr. fan" or something and that's why I'm happy. Well I'm actually a Mark Martin fan. He finished 43rd and was out by lap 8. Still my favourite race of the year.

    Finally as for the safety, I think that after crashes like Geoff Bodines Daytona Crash, which was similar (it injured 9 people as well). What needs to be done is better fencing preventing debris from getting to the fans. And it needs to have a lot less sway.
    I think a key phrase here is "worse than it looks". The safety has been improved so much that what happens at Talladega and Daytona looks worse than it is. Bodine crash at Daytona almost killed him. But that was in 2000. How many have done a couple flips and walked away unscathed recently? Elliot Sadler twice, Matt Kenseth on Sat. and hell, Carl Edwards even ran to the finish line. Your going to get flips at high speed period.

  34. I am really torn about this. I love watching racing at Talledega but Jerry and Carl Edwards are correct about the safety issue; somebody, perhaps even a fan, is going to get killed sooner or later.

    Of course, it all makes for ratings-enhancing excitement. Other than the Daytona 500 and the short-track night races, the 'dega races are the only ones I make an effort to watch. In the COT era, racing at most other tracks is simply boring on TV. When was the last time there was an exciting race at Pocono or NH or one road courses? Martin's win at Phoenix was a snorefest. Even the short-track stuff is not that interesting any more. And the lack of exciting racing is costing NASCAR fans; just look at the TV ratings. The empty seats may be due to the economy, but people aren't even watching for free. My 12-year old son is a good example; he's been a big fan all his life but he is losing interest. He'd much rather watch the side-by-side racing at our local dirt track.

    I'm pretty sure NASCAR understands this, which is why it will do nothing to "fix" Talledega. It's one of the few exciting products it's got left to offer.

  35. The point in my earlier post was that the "Yellow Line" rule was what caused the wreck, and I can now back that up with video from Stewarts win last year. Watch the race to the flag, and tell me that it doesn't look as close as you can come, at 190MPH, to Sunday. Last year, a driver did his best to avoid getting into Stewart, and was rewarded with nothing, good driving though. This year, a driver played by NASCAR's rules, and we all know what happened. End of Story.

  36. CP from New JerseyApril 28, 2009 at 1:59 PM

    Hi Jerry,
    Brad K. did not intend to wrack Edward. He moved up, 99 moved up, he moved down, 99 moved down, if Brad continues to move below the yellow line (let's say there has no yellow line rules), Edward will continue to block him on to grass until they both hit the inside wall. As Michael Waltrip said on Speed TV show, the drivers saw the Yellow line as the end of the road, it's a wall, so they won't go over it and just hold the line. Brad K. did what NASCAR asked for and the unfortune happened. I don't like Dega racing because it turns all the good equipment to a junk yard.

  37. Paul A. (ypsi_cpa-speed at 28, 2009 at 5:25 PM

    Keselowski and Edwards are both responsible for the accident, but to blame Keselowski for intentionally spinning Edwards is wrong. We see cars come across the nose of other cars at every track; while there is a case to be made for the car being passed to give the other car a little slack early in the race, no one expects them to do so when the win is at stake. Commentary on these incidents usually follows along those lines, e.g. "The #yy thought he'd cleared the #xx and just came across his nose" or "Looks like the #yy didn't know the #xx was on the inside/outside there" or at times, " I don't know what the #yy was thinking there; the #xx was clearly alongside of him and #yy just cut him off." Edwards tried to get in front of Keselowski, but didn't get over in time and instead came across his nose and wrecked himself. Only the pavement to the left of the yellow line gave Keselowski the option of avoiding Edwards, and NASCAR effectively eliminated that pavement's utility (especially at the end of the race) with last fall's ruling. So yes, Keselowski COULD have avoided the accident by moving further left, but would have lost the race even had he passed Edwards. And Edwards COULD have avoided the accident by maintaining the higher line when Keselowski got below him, but likely would have been passed and lost the race.

    The yellow line rule is there because before it was implemented they were racing down onto the apron and even into the grass. So the same type of accident could happen if they eliminated the yellow line, just about 12 feet further to the left. Or a car could drop a wheel off the pavement and shoot back up in front of the rest of the field, or be upset by the transition between the banking and the apron. The highway metaphor breaks down quickly, but assuming you or I was driving on the highway and had nowhere to maneuver to the left (and couldn't reduce speed), and then had a car continue to move left across our front fender, the other driver would be responsible. That is (essentially) the position Keselowski was in Sunday; NASCAR's rules and rulings have made the yellow line equivalent to the concrete barrier running down the middle of a highway.

    I think the bigger issue is the phenomenon of 2 COTs drafting tightly together being able to get over 200 mph, which happened last year too but was not addressed by NASCAR. While it won't prevent further crashes, reducing the restrictor plate openings (at least as an interim step) should keep the cars from achieving liftoff. Most of the "horrific" accidents of the past involved cars tumbling through the infield; still violent and dangerous, but not the same as them creating aerodynamic lift and sailing towards the outside fences. Since Allison's crash NASCAR has had an unofficial target speed of 185-190 MPH for the cars at the restrictor plate tracks, which seems to be the point where "normal" crashes end and getting airborne begins.

    Another safety issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of SAFER barriers on EVERY wall surrounding all the tracks. Robby Gordon was only a few hundred yards away from hitting a concrete wall head-on instead of the SAFER barrier, and while the HANS device is wonderful, it shouldn't be the only line of protection when other safety measures exist.

    Can racing at Talladega (or any track) be made safe or all the risk eliminated? NO!

    Will more on-track deaths occur? Unfortunately, yes. And not just at the high-speed tracks. And on rare occasions it will be spectators. That is the nature of the beast, and also its allure.

    But can racing (even at Talladega) continue to be made safer, and the risks kept at an acceptable level? YES!

    And I think Sunday's race showed that the current level of risk is not acceptable. And unfortunately, sometimes the changes needed to reduce that risk may impact the racing as we currently know it. But if Monza and LeMans and Spa can adapt, so can Talladega.

  38. Paul A. thank you for posting a well-thought out and well-written response. It's a breath of fresh-air from the "you've all turned into limp-wristed, bleeding heart girly-men" garbage we were getting before. Kudos to you for being able to make a great point without having to resort to juvenile-level name-calling.

  39. Am I the only one who noticed that Carl's passenger side roof flap didn't open until after the rear tires of his car were already off the ground? The driver's side roof flap opened first, even though it was facing away from the direction of travel. If the passenger side roof flap had deployed as soon as Carl's car turned sideways, it might not have lifted off the ground. Do the roof flaps deploy only because the air pressure over the flap is lower than the air pressure under it? If so, I think a tab similar to the spoiler on the back of the old car should be added the the rear edge of the flaps. When the car gets turned around, the tab would catch air and lift the spoiler up before the air pressure changes enough to do it.

    BTW, Jerry, you're wrong. Carl wrecked himself. He was trying to block Brad. Blocking shouldn't be allowed. Carl is one of my favorite drivers and I'm not that crazy about Keselowski. Swerving to keep a faster car behind you is unsportsman-like and asking for trouble.

  40. Racing never has and never will be SAFE!!! That's part of the thrill of watching 43 of the world's greatest drivers manhandle 3600 lb steel beasts around for 4 hours. Just knowing these guys are staring potential disaster in the face and not backing down. If restrictorplate racing is so dangerous why is it it's always the tracks like Texas, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky..... (I could go on and on) where drivers typically get their bell rung after a hard crash. It's the single car crashes head on, drivers side first wrecks that always injure or sometimes kill drivers. Anyone will tell you the barrell rolls you see arent near as bad as knocking the wall down after blowing a tire in a 170 mph corner!!! I'm just saying, racing will never be 100 or even 90 percent safe. NASCAR cant make a radical change just because of what happened Sunday. All the stars aligned perfect for that scenario to happen, but you know what???? The catchfence did it's job and everyone walked away with a helluva story to tell their buddies!!! "What happened to you"? "Ahh, I got taken out by a PA speaker!! It's not near as bad as this d@#m sunburn"!!!! Let em race!

  41. Anon 8:13

    I saw the same thing with the roof flap. Was that a function of the big rear wing and the angle of the banking blocking the air flow over the flap (which would have redueced the pressure and allowed it to deploy? And did the rear wing create addtional lift that the rear spoiler did not? Did NASCAR test this when they created the COT?

    Racing will never be 100% safe. However, it is not clear at this point that the COT configuration at plate tracks is understood. So we are all participants in a big experiment. Hope it works, and good thing the catch fence held.


  42. Seriously, I've said this before here and elsewhere and I'll say it again. Blocking is stupid and NASCAR can not condone it. Saying "Edwards did what he was supposed to do, to block Keselowski" is just wrong, I'm sorry. It is not what he is supposed to do. I can not see how any logical person could say that a car running at 190+ mph should be jumping left and right randomly to try to block is the right thing to do. It is insane. It is inviting disaster. Driving at 190+ mph isn't dangerous until idiots start driving dangerously to court disaster.

    I am so glad that we again and again see stupid drivers wrecking themselves doing this. Kenseth (who I actually like a lot) did it the day before in the nationwide race and wrecked himself. He stupidly didn't learn and then did the same thing and caused a huge mess at in the first ten laps the next day. Kyle Busch was blocking like crazy and wrecked himself. Good karma. Carl Edwards did it and wrecked himself. Good karma.

    I wish Regan Smith had done the same last year at Dega and wrecked Stewart.

    Kudos to Keislowski for holding his ground and not being a pussy about it afterwards. He has gone up a lot in my books for that.

    Nascar has to start taking the hard line on blockers.

  43. And another thing, you want to see a good plate race, watch the Nationwide Talladega race. That was some of the best hardest but cleanest racing I've ever seen. A record first 57 laps green, and the green only broken by a stupid cup driver causing a two car wreck. No "big one". No COT. In fact all of the cautions in the race were caused by cup drivers. And fortunately all the drivers that caused wrecks blocking generally just wrecked themselves and maybe one or two other drivers (eg, the one kenseth caused)


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