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NASCAR needs to improve Talladega safety, Ryan Newman says, and he wants to be part of the process

  Ryan Newman, back in action at Texas, after that horrifying Talladega crash...and speaking his mind (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FORT WORTH, Texas
   Ryan Newman, five days after his frightening flip at Talladega, and his critical comments about NASCAR's approach to Talladega races, said Friday that NASCAR needs to do more aerodynamic testing on its cars to improve safety and that NASCAR needs to figure out a way to strengthen the safety rollcages.
   And Newman says he wants to be part of the study.
   Newman says he asked to meet with NASCAR officials about the situation, and he did talk Wednesday with NASCAR's John Darby and Robin Pemberton.
   "Obviously more testing needs to be done, to make it safer for everybody," Newman says.
   In the meeting "I learned things, and I think they learned things," Newman said. "They opened my eyes a little to things that the safety crews go through to learn to do what they do.
    "And I want to make a point that I was not dissatisfied with the way I was taken out of the car. But I just think there are things that can be done to make it easier on the next guy…who might be me again. And that's my responsibility.
   "They learned my perspective on a few things. You can say 'This is what I think,' and 'This is the way I would like to do things,' but NASCAR has to make those decisions….
   "It's a tough situation. You're dealing with lives and safety, and it's not as easy as making a spring rule.
   "Every crash is different…but there are things I think that can and should be done.
  "We talked about two things – the extrication of myself from the accident scene, and secondly the reason why we're in that position in the first, which to me is more important – to me the most important thing is to keep the race cars on the ground.
   "Keeping the cars on the ground is how we keep the drivers and especially the fans safe. That's why I was so frustrated Sunday – because I was talking about the very same thing on the last lap of the spring race. And to live out my frustrations from six months before was difficult.
   "Whatever we can do speed-wise and aerodynamically to keep the cars on the ground…particularly in things in the back of the car when that 'sees' the air first (when turned backwards), to keep the lift out of the back of the cars, is what we need to focus on.
   "There has been testing….but I don't know they have tested everything, and I don't know if you could test everything.
    "Speed is part of it. The faster you go, the more likely you are to take lift. An airplane takes off at 160 mph, and we're 40 mph quicker than that at times. So there's potential for a car to take lift, whether it's going forward, backwards, or sideways."
   One question raised is whether NASCAR's new rear wing might be contributing to cars becoming airborne when they get turned around.
  "Kind of my point is 'Do you think' is not the answer," Newman says. "We need to do testing, so we know.
   Yes, I think there is the potential for a (traditional) spoiler to react differently than a wing, for sure. I don't know that it's the answer….because Matt Kenseth's Nationwide car got airborne with a spoiler on the back. And I've been a part of cars getting airborne with spoilers on the back and with wings on the back, unfortunately.
   "Could that be part of the fix? Yes, potentially.
   "Those are things the teams and collectively have to test.
    "Our team, Stewart-Haas, has access to the Windshear wind tunnel, a rolling road wind tunnel, so we have the capability to put a full-scale car in it backwards, and check the 'load' cells, to see what we can do to eliminate some of that lift…and keep the cars on the ground at 220 mph scaled.
   "There are things that can be done and should be done, and I want to be part of it."
   Another frightening part of Newman's Talladega crash was that after his car bounced upside down and landed that way, his helmet was wedged in so tightly to the rollbars that he couldn't move. And it took safety crews from 11 to 12 minutes to extract him from the car, after turning upright again and then cutting off the roof.
   "I was a little disappointed the roll cage crushed the way it did," Newman said. "I know it was a heck of a hit, don't get me wrong. But we've got to learn from that, and whatever we can do, from a welding standpoint, from a (rollbar) wall-thickness standpoint, is important too.
   "I had 3400 pounds come down basically on my head….(but) I was never compressed in the car.
   "Well, my spine was compressed, yes, but not to the point where my butt was pushed down into the seat. That was an instantaneous load, and it hurts. It still hurts. But once they got the car back upright I was able to take my helmet off. So there was room there; I wasn't physically wedged."
    So between now April, when the tour returns to Talladega, in six months, Newman says "I think there are for sure things that ought to be done and should be done, based on what we saw in my accident, and Mark Martin's accident (Sunday), and Carl Edwards' accident in the spring.
   "Aerodynamically there are things that need to be done to keep the cars on the ground. I said that six months ago….and six months is plenty of time to make the changes. 
    "The important thing is to make the right changes, and to do the testing – with the tools we have, wind tunnels and (computer) modeling."
   And that pre-race 'no bumping' rule?
   "As far as the drafting (the no-bump-draft zones NASCAR imposed Sunday at Talladega: I wasn't a fan of the rule," Newman said.
   "And I think the drivers need to have more respect from NASCAR to make our own decisions, for us to say 'Hey, I'll treat you the way I know you want to be treated, and vice versa.'
   "I feel it used to be that way (in an earlier era). And this sport has grown so much because of the drivers who made it that way.
   "The more restrictions you give the drivers, the less the fans are going to be delivered excitement. And that's not good.
   "I don't like the (no) bump-drafting rule. I understand why it was implemented. But I don't think that is the fix.
   "I think if you put the right race cars on that track, you can put on a good show for the fans – albeit not the ideal race track and not the ideal way a driver likes to race – but a better show than we saw last Sunday."






Newman still needs to be

Newman still needs to be taken to task here -

1 - "Speed is part of it." It's more than just part of it - the reality is the cars need a smaller restrictor plate than what NASCAR mandated so they cannot reach 200 even in drafting trap speeds.

2 - Newman laments the unenforced "no bump" zone, yet he won't take his fellow drivers to task for lobbying for that rule in the first place. And when he complains that "we could put on a better show than what we saw Sunday," he again misses that what made it boring in three seperate periods was his fellow drivers.

At some point Newman et al need to understand - it is what it is, it can't be changed, so shut up and race.

After watching replays of

After watching replays of Newmans accident it's clear to me that if Nascar intends on keeping the wing, that wing needs "wing flaps". Turned backwards it creates lift. If not, when turned 180 degrees the car will fly when at high speeds. Just like Newman. Simple aerodynamics.

Isn't the point of racing to

Isn't the point of racing to see who can get from point A to point B the fastest? There are different types of racing ... who can move a quarter mile the fastest is different than who can go 500 miles the fastest. Does Nascar at the restrictor plate tracks need to become a "road race" format of who can get there fastest without exceeding 160 MPH? Perhaps they should just black flag drivers that exceed the speed limit.

All the "restrictor plate" is doing is moving the engineering to be the fastest car on the track elsewhere in the car. Perhaps at some point all cars will be equal and the only factor left will be driver skill and luck.

Engineer the car to go fast AND safe. I agree with Ryan ... it shouldn't fly when turned around. Fix the aerodynamics.

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