We’ve been painting the new house. I was straining to hear EPSN’s commentary over the swoosh-swish of the paint roller as the race came to a close – but it was all too easy to hear the change the tone of Allen Bestwick’s voice. We heard it in Marty Reid’s voice in Vegas not too long ago. I remember the first-hand feeling sitting about 50 yards from Michael McDowell’s wreck during qualifying at Texas. A track full of race fans – all quiet – is one of the worst sounds in all of sports.
The first reaction to things like this is often blame. Blame NASCAR for blocking videos, blame ESPN for showing too many replays — or not showing enough replays. Blame reporters for not having information fast enough. Blame reporters for information reported in good faith that turns out to be incorrect. Blame drivers for blocking. Blame drivers for trying to pass. Blame NASCAR for letting the cars go too fast.
I was at the NASCAR R&D Center a couple of weeks ago talking with the head of NASCAR’s safety effort. There is no one more committed to safety or doing more to make racing safe — for fans and for drivers. There is no one at NASCAR who thinks the show is more important than safety.
In talking to folks at NASCAR and people like Dean Sicking, inventor of the SAFER barriers and one of the foremost motorsports safety experts in the world, the same themes emerge. We have solved 99% of the safety issues. The fact that Kyle Larson emerged from what was left of his car uninjured is a miracle. The fact that the engine did, in fact, get stopped by the fence, saved lives.
The safety issues that remain are the ones that are hardest to solve: The ends and the breaks in pit road walls. SAFER barriers for inner walls that can still open quickly — even when damaged — to let emergency vehicles onto the track. Gates in catchfences that open, but retain the same strength as a solid piece of catchfence.
I’ve got some general information about catchfences that was written after the Dan Wheldon accident, and I expect I will reiterate my thoughts that there needs to be a concerted effort to figure out how to fund the very expensive research necessary for preventing what happened Saturday night from happening again.
Right now, my thoughts are with the people who were injured and my best wishes go to them for speedy, complete recoveries.