The Frontstretch: NASCAR Nation: Outreach, Not Outcry, Should Be Our Approach by Summer Bedgood -- Saturday February 23, 2013

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NASCAR Nation: Outreach, Not Outcry, Should Be Our Approach

Summer Bedgood · Saturday February 23, 2013


As I sit here staring at a computer screen and an empty Word document, I struggle with how to begin. After all, at the beginning of the day, as I prepared to watch what I expected to be a great Nationwide Series race, never did I anticipate what we’d be talking about at this moment.

Such a freak accident. It’s not often that fans are impacted directly by what happens on the racetrack; but, as Kyle Larson’s race car flew through the air and into the catchfence, most of us watching immediately knew the consequences of what we had just seen Saturday afternoon. We saw fire, half of Larson’s car in the infield, and a good chunk of the other half, along with a tire and many other pieces, flung into the grandstands. Our stomachs sank, a lump formed in our throat, we said a silent prayer, and collectively held our breaths.

Of course, we now know most of what transpired. Anywhere from 28 to 33 fans were injured, including one child, and at least two listed in critical condition. While details were hard to come by, the most promising news was the part that never came: casualties. While there were some trauma-related injuries, including one life-threatening at first everyone was reported as stable and that was much better than what many of us expected.

Sadly, NASCAR has been through fan injuries before — like this Carl Edwards flip, in Talladega where pieces of the No. 99 injured eight after slamming, hard into the catchfence.

However, even if things turn out worse than we anticipated, that’s not why I’m writing this column. I’m not here to point fingers, place blame, or even talk about all of the safety aspects NASCAR needs to consider looking into.

I’m simply here to attempt to be a voice of reason, as hard as that is. Most of us probably don’t know any of the fans who were hurt in the grandstands, but yet so many of us were personally affected by their injuries. Why? Because NASCAR is, in a way, one big family. We might disagree in the strongest way and maybe even be a little mean about it at times. However, when one of our own, from a fan, to a crewman, to a member of the media, to a driver is injured or in any way in danger, we rally around them and want to help. It’s just something that comes along with being part of NASCAR Nation. Saturday was no different.

However, for some reason, we also want someone to blame. On Twitter, there was plenty to go around; someone tried to blame Brad Keselowski for making such a daring move. Others spewed their venom at Regan Smith for blocking. Still others tried to blame NASCAR for allowing restrictor plate racing to exist at all. Fingers were pointed and attempts were made to try and answer the question, “Why?!”

But that’s not constructive. It’s not helpful, and it certainly won’t give those people in the grandstands their health back. Yes, NASCAR needs to look into why this happened beyond simple physics and what, if anything, can be done to ensure that it never happens again. And if the sport has shown that they care about anything, in recent years it’s the safety of every single person inside that racetrack.

In the meantime, it would be much more helpful for everyone to rally around each other, NASCAR and the drivers included. Simply think back to the introduction of every new generation of cars, especially in the past decade. What was emphasized more than anything? Safety. From the roll cages, the driver’s seat, the HANS device, and everything in between, every single time NASCAR makes a change to the car they make it safer.

Additionally, we should recall when Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards had their incident in 2009, when several fans in the grandstands were injured as a result. NASCAR immediately looked at the catchfence and did their best to fix the problem.

Safety is NASCAR’s number one concern. There is no doubt about that. In fact, I would suffice it to say that we more than likely would have had some deaths at the racetrack — both in the grandstands and on Daytona’s asphalt — if not for their improvements to the way these cars were built these past several years. Unfortunately, you can never, ever prepare for everything. As I said before, today was a freak accident. We likely won’t see the same thing for a long time, if ever. Does that mean NASCAR shouldn’t do anything about it? No, but it does mean we should manage our outrage. If NASCAR, Daytona, or the drivers had been able to foresee something like this horror, they would have done something about it a long time ago.

This point is in no means my way of saying we should be OK with what happened. On the contrary! My heart breaks for fans who used this day as a vacation for their family, only to wind up in the hospital for something completely out of their control. It’s one thing for a competitor to be injured in a sport that is well known for its danger and carnage; but for a spectator who is there for nothing other than supporting the driver and the sport they love? Unthinkable.

The main point I’m making here is simple: direct your emotions in the right place. Instead of being angry at the competitors, say a prayer for the victims. Rather than send an angry letter to NASCAR, send a supportive tweet to the fans who were there and saw things that they will never be able to erase from their memories. Don’t jump to conclusions about what happened and instead rest assured that we will not look back on this day in vain. Changes will be made, for certain in the future and both fans and competitors will be safer because of it.

And if you’re heading to the racetrack this weekend or any time this season, be sure to hug your family and maybe share a beverage with your neighbors in the grandstands. Not because of what might happen, but because you are a part of a great big family known as NASCAR Nation. What could be better than that?

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
Open Wheel Wednesday: Controversial Moves, Long Beach Crowds, and Being a Fuddy Duddy
The Frontstretch Five: Pleasant Surprises of 2014 So Far
IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
Beyond the Cockpit: Tommy Baldwin on Owning His Team, Hall of Fame and the Number Seven


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Bad Wolf
02/24/2013 02:24 AM

And all week long we were reminded to stay tuned for “The Big One”. The talk of the booth all week seemed to be about the possability of “The Big One” and when it would happen. Hell, they even had a poll before the Twins asking which race you thought “The Big One” would happen in, with the guys in the booth almost giddy with excitement while pondering on the question.

It’s been 12 years since Dale Sr. lost his life at Daytona, and since then Nascar, The Broadcast Partners and fans seem to have grown complacent to the dangers of plate racing and in the case of Fox had even taken to promoting the sport with teasers from the booth of an exciting “Big One” just around the corner if you stay tuned. The “Temporary” plates were added in ’88 to keep the speeds under 200mph and cars out of the fence, but they have put more cars airborne and into the fence since 1988 than ever before.

It’s time for Nascar to get rid of the plates and come up with a solution that works (smaller CID, lower compression, less ground effects, bias ply tires, retro 1964 bodies or whatever else besides restrictor plates may work to reduce speeds and keep cars from becoming airborn)even though the “Fans” and the Broadcast Partners seem to love the plates and the ratings enhancing “Big Ones”.

After what happened today I think the insurance companies will make sure something is done, and done right this time around.

02/24/2013 07:22 AM

Well said Summer! We as fans know the danger, but it is the sport we love, despite all the complaining we do. What makes my 5W20 blood boil is the uneducated masses who stand up, point their self-righteous finger at me and say that this is what I go to see when I go to a race. No, it isn’t! I never want o see any accident, not even involving a driver I can’t stand! Yes, I do admit to cheering when certain drivers experience misfortune, like when a certain driver had engine problems yesterday. But karma bit me when one of my favorite drivers lost the rear gear later.

Accidents are not funny, and are nothing to desire. But the stigma is still there, thanks to the media like FOX who use accidents to promote a race. And you can bet that there will be a sharp spike in viewership today, by those who would never consider watching a NASCAR race, because of what happened yesterday. I, for one, will be passing on watching for the first time since ABC used to pick the race up in the last third of the race in 1971! I know that the nature of restrictor plate racing is tight packs, and it is also the big one. There were two yesterday. I stopped watching after the first one which did injure a driver, and also took out another favorite driver of mine, Johanna Long. After that, the TV went off! And it has remained off since. I only found out about this wreck that injured fans at around 6 when I was checking for the results on Jayski.

I am still passionate about our sport, and will be for a long time. But I do not want to see any wrecks. Some people don’t get that, or refuse to get it. They are the problem!

Ron Schwalbe
02/25/2013 09:35 AM

One possible effort would be to run the road course, withOUT the plates (not needed) – the cars would STILL come thru turns 3&4 on the hi banks – thru the trioval, and then, the get spread out thru the infield portion – wouldn’t cost a single DIME to implemenet -and the “interstate hiway traffic CLOGS’ (that CAUSE the wrecks) could be diminshed and, the fans would be able to actually SEE the cars better. Worth considering.