Monday, April 27, 2009


I know there is a segment of the population that watches NASCAR to see the cool car crashes.

I don't like it, but I know they're out there. I guess everyone has their own tastes and such. Big wrecks can sure make things interesting, but they can also cross a line when cars are flying and such.

In this case, it's time for NASCAR to take some culpability. After all, the perception - when you've had two similar finishes to the last two Talladega races (trust me, they're similar) - is that NASCAR is going to have a dead driver and/or a dead fan on their hands pretty soon.

Let's first look at the videos. Three big wrecks in one unbelieveable afternoon. The first one came before most fans had even bothered to crack open their first beverage.

The second big wreck came late in the race, a more typical time for a huge wreck at Talladega.

Finally, there's the frightening and exhilarating finish.

Thankfully, Carl Edwards is okay. Thankfully, the injured fans should be okay.

Now, for what to do.

NASCAR has some options, some of which will help the problem, and some not so much.

For starters, they could change the restrictor plate and slow the cars down. This wouldn't change the packed-up nature of these races, only the speed at which the "Big One" happens. One thing that would probably go away is any measurable chance of a race car going flying like Edwards did Sunday. Drivers would hate it, because it would lead to more of this three- and four-wide high-stress racing, but fans would still be mildly entertained by the close races.

Another option is removing the restrictor plate. This would allow for more wide-open racing and fewer big wrecks. The problem is that the cars would be going much faster, meaning the big wrecks would be even bigger. And, yes, there would be the possiblity of flying race cars. Probably not a good idea.

NASCAR could also lower the banking at the superspeedways. It's a high-cost option that would definitely lead to improved safety.

They could also keep the status quo. The idea behind doing this was that it took a perfect storm of circumstance for Edwards to take flight. The argument against it is that Regan Smith could have easily done the same thing to Tony Stewart last fall. Instead, he went below the yellow line and improved his position, which is against the rules in the plate races.

So is the yellow line an answer? Well, part of the reason NASCAR went to that rule was safety, so I doubt they'll rule that removing the rule now is a good safety measure.

A kneejerk reaction is not the right way to go about things, but fans and drivers are going to want a ruling made by the time NASCAR hits Daytona in early July. Short-term, I'm not sure there is a good answer. Long-term, I'd like to see them explore the banking issue. Taking down those high banks does no harm to the racing, and it would be an improvement for driver and fan safety.

No matter what, it's quite a conundrum for motorsports' biggest governing body.

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