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Is NASCAR really serious about safety?

  Pit roads are dangerous. Have NASCAR officials become too lackadaisical about pit road safety? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   DOVER, Del.
   Safety on pit road?
   Sorry, think again.
   And how about safety out there on the race track itself? Several drivers have either gone nose-first into the wall or slammed hard on the driver's side in recent Sprint Cup events.

   NASCAR officials need to go back into executive session and rethink all this, before someone gets seriously hurt.
   So NASCAR figures fining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch $25,000 each – forget that all-but-meaningless 'probation,' whatever that really is – is appropriate for their post-race pit road antics at Darlington Raceway after Saturday night's Southern 500?
   When Harvick blocked pit road and Busch pushed his car out of the way….
   Could have hurt someone on pit road.
   Gosh, wonder what the penalty should be if a crewman actually got hit and injured on pit road….
   Oh, that's right. Two crewmen were hit on pit road at Darlington. Jeff Gordon and Paul Menard were the drivers involved.
   The penalties? Nothing.
   Maybe NASCAR crewmen are simply expendable.
   In fact NASCAR officials have, over the past few years, pointedly declined to do much at all to police safety on pit road when it comes to drivers hitting crewmen. The argument? That some crewman might just jump out in front of a moving race car in order to draw a penalty.
   Hit the 'commitment cone,' that's a penalty.
   Hit a crewman. Nothing.
   Perhaps someone in NASCAR headquarters needs to review the Mike Rich case: Atlanta, 1990.
   Why is the 'possibility' of a crewman getting hit on pit road worth $50,000 in fines, but actually hitting a crewman is simply ignored?

   Jeff Gordon's car after a hard driver's side hit at Richmond, into a wall not protected by the soft-walls SAFER Barrier. Has this sport forgotten what happened to Jerry Nadeau? Why aren't drivers themselves more proactive? After all it's their heads....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Another point here:
   Out there on the track, NASCAR officials clearly have some problems in trying to handle this 'Boys, have at it' thing.
   Whatever happens out there on the track, hey, boys, have at it.
   So Harvick knocks Busch into the infield wall at Homestead last fall.
   NASCAR officials did nothing.
   So Busch hooks Harvick into the outside wall at Darlington?
   NASCAR officials make clear they are not issuing any penalties for that.
   And check out the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski incidents last year. NASCAR proved unable, or unwilling, to handle those situations.
   NASCAR officials are flirting dangerously with fate in these no-calls.
   Again, more recently, NASCAR officials all but brushed off the Juan Pablo Montoya-Ryan Newman run-in at Richmond. In fact, it could be argued that NASCAR has let the Montoya-Newman situation fester for more than four years now without resolution. 
   Just Saturday morning we were pondering this: Could it be any more appropriate that the void left by Jim Hunter manifests itself at Darlington – where no one is left within NASCAR to mediate successfully between Montoya and Newman?
   And then came this Harvick-Busch run-in….with again NASCAR officials either unable or unwilling to resolve the issues.
   Great TV ratings?
   The cynical might think that NASCAR executives like all this crashing. Besides, hey, these cars are safe, we've got soft walls, and nobody's been badly hurt in quite a while.
   Uh, maybe NASCAR executives need to check in with Jeff Gordon, who got his bell run at Richmond, in a hard driver's-side crash….into a part of that track that had no soft walls.
   Why is there any NASCAR track that doesn't have soft walls all the way around?
   Why aren't NASCAR officials and drivers walking each track every Friday morning, looking for potential safety issues that need to be addressed?
   And Kyle Busch himself pointed specifically to Daytona International Speedway, when asked about tracks with holes in soft walls protection:
   "You look at Daytona or Talladega, there are SAFER barriers, but not everywhere. We wreck more on the straightaways than we do in the turns. You wonder to yourself 'We don't need any more racing room; why don't you have a SAFER barrier here?'"
   Certainly NASCAR's general inaction, or inattention, the past few weeks on safety issues raises some significant questions.


  Jeff Gordon pitting at Darlington Saturday night. Should NASCAR start cracking down on pit road safety violations? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Afraid To Let Go Of Control Of The Racing?

That's the only thing I can come up with here. "Boys Have At It" is ostensibly a new policy when actually it is just redressing of a general refusal to punish drivers that has permeated the sport almost forever. The pit road issue of crewmen getting hit is the umpteen thousandth example of the folly of closing pit road when the yellow comes out. Between closing pit road instead of letting drivers pit when they want to, and having these "safer" pit speed limits that have done nothing but breed brushbacking, NASCAR created a mess where none existed before 1989, the year pit closure was first implemented. When the inevitable happened, NASCAR didn't want to let go of the pit closure rule so they stumbled along with banning tire changes for five 1991 races before finally hitting on pit speed limits, and when that proved an illusion of safety NASCAR still did not want to let go of the control they'd given themselves.

NASCAR's thinking in a lot of areas is hopelessly trapped by the box they've created where the first priority is having control of the racing as opposed to having the racers have control of the racing. Letting the racers pit when they want to at what speed they want to, letting the racers use another brand of tire, etc. - NASCAR will not figure out how to make itself better until it figures out that having as much control of the racing that they do has not made the sport better.

NA$CAR is famous for crowing

NA$CAR is famous for crowing about safety and winking about it. Every advancement they've made has come on the heals of bad publicity concerning their safety policies. Years ago before most people heard of the HANS device Kyle Petty tested one. Dale Earnhardt laughed at him and questioned his bravery. How ironic that Dale and Adam might still be here if NA$CAR had looked into the HANS as a worthwhile safety device. NA$CAR cares about TV ratings and promters fees. It's all about money. The dumbest thing I've heard in a long time came from Kenny Wallace. He said the Kyle/Harvick deal after the race was good for the sport. It's not good for the sport although it may be good for the TV ratings. What is NA$CAR's real priority. M O N E Y.

Safety Comment!

Look nobody wants to see someone hurt, at a Nascar race or on our highways!And I applaud Nascar for all its safety program etc!

But have followed Nascar for over 4 decades now, and for every accident I see on the track that said 'the safer walls" prevented injury, I have seen as bad or worse wrecks in past decades that had no safer barrier!
Lets see Mike Waltrip Bristol Crash, Maynard Troyers 71 Daytona wreck, Ricky Rudds Busch Clash wreck just to name a few!

The reason Jeff Gordon complains about his wrecks is because he has never been in any major ones!!!!!Now he is getting his share and its like we need to fix something because he is complaining!

If you are going to preach safety, then lets think about the fans safety, not just the drivers! Nascar racing is much safer for the drivers than the paying fans who have to put up with drinking fans leaving racetrack and getting on highways after the race, Nascars proactive support of selling 24% beers, but cannot have cigarettes!!

Richmond Raceway sponsor Crown Royal hard liquior! but cannot smoke in main grandstand! And they said they were doing this to promote "a more positive image" How much more hyprocrital can you be!

I am getting tired of all the safety issues when what they are getting "well paid to do," and what us fans having to put with gets no concern! If these drivers dont want to race then become a fan!

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