The Frontstretch: NASCAR's Fine Line Between Tragedy And Terrific: Newman's Nasty Remarks by Summer Bedgood -- Monday May 6, 2013

Go to site navigation Go to article

Talladega Superspeedway is a favorite among NASCAR’s viewers, but it has fewer fans amongst the garage area. For fabricators, it means even longer hours in the shop. For drivers, it means a gamble, roll of the dice chance of winning the race or winding up with a heap of scrap metal to be loaded back onto the hauler.

For Ryan Newman, it’s been more of the latter. Eight DNFs in 28 races — including last Sunday’s unbearably long event — is a good indication as to why.

To add insult to injury, when Newman goes out, he goes out with a bang. The Alabama sky has become a familiar sight to him, as well as the undercarriages of his competitor’s cars. Let’s just say “‘Dega” doesn’t exactly agree with Newman’s racing preferences.

Ryan Newman has seen cars land on top of him too many times to keep his mouth shut about the current style of restrictor plate racing.

This past Sunday at the plate track was no different for Newman. After a nearly four hour rain delay and already one “Big One”, Newman was probably ready to go home. However, NASCAR decided to wait out the weather, dry the track, and finish the race.

This decision would prove to be to Newman’s detriment, as well as a myriad of other drivers. After Stenhouse attempted to take it four wide with just four laps remaining, battling with the 36 car of JJ Yeley, a huge pileup occurred behind him. Yeley spun down the track, hooked Kurt Busch’s right rear, and Busch began a tumble that would end up on top of Newman’s windshield. While all drivers involved walked (or drove) away just fine, Newman was understandably angry at the exit of the infield care center.

And it wasn’t at any driver.

“They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls, but they can’t get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the racetrack, and that’s pretty disappointing,” Newman said. “I wanted to make sure I get that point across, and y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is.”

If you haven’t caught on yet, “they” is obviously NASCAR.

One can’t help but wonder — with as penalty happy as NASCAR has been this year — if Newman can’t be expecting a fine for “actions detrimental to stock car racing” later on in the week. NASCAR doesn’t take too well to criticism, and definitely not when it’s directed at the on-track product. Newman is no stranger to fines, and NASCAR is no stranger to his restrictor plate racing rants, but the driver took a direct shot at the sanctioning body. That can’t go over well, can it?

The problem I have with Newman’s comments, though, is that NASCAR can change all of the aerodynamics they want but they can’t mess with physics. The roof flaps can’t help a car hooking the right rear and, at the right speeds at the right angles, that car is going to go over. There is just no way around that. It’d be one thing if Newman had flown through the apron and flipped over then; however, NASCAR can’t stop these cars from hitting each other. Not without severely limiting the on-track product, anyway, and they were already on thin ice with fans from a substandard Daytona 500.

That’s not to say that Newman’s rant is completely unfounded. Yes, NASCAR has poured thousands, if not millions, into research for the cars alone to make the cars safer. That’s not to mention things like SAFER barriers, HANS devices, and other innovations made in recent years. They should be commended for that.

However, when it comes to driver safety, there is never room to stop improving, and keeping these cars grounded at restrictor plate tracks has been a challenge for NASCAR. Like I said, sometimes you can’t play with physics, but you would think that this incident would stop happening every single time they race at Daytona or Talladega.

It’s no less heart stopping every time it happens. You don’t get used to it. And watching the same replay over, and over, and over again doesn’t make it any less gut wrenching. I still cringe when I watch Carl Edwards’ crash into the catchfence at Talladega in 2009 and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it.

There is part of me that wonders, though, if there is a small part of NASCAR or the racetracks that revels in the eyes that crashes like that bring to the sport. It doesn’t matter how much of an underdog story Front Row Motorsports’ 1-2 finish was. That’s not going to resonate with the casual or reluctant observer. They don’t know the difference between Front Row Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports aside from the obligatory sports metaphor. That really isn’t going to matter to them as much as it does to me and you.

What will get them to sit up and watch is a massive, heart-stopping wreck in which a car is tossing end over end on the backstretch. They may not know who is in the car or where they are in the points. But they do know that it was an incredible crash and it brings their eyes to the TV quicker than any underdog story does.

I don’t think NASCAR likes to see crashes, but I can’t help but think there is a small amount of satisfaction when a wreck like that has thousands of views on YouTube and is being played over and over on SportsCenter. The general public is insatiable and they will watch and analyze that sort of thing all day.

It’s not just free publicity, too. NASCAR and the tracks will use it in their own commercials, as promos and as a reason to watch.

In other words, are they really in a hurry to stop it? If they can have amazing crashes without injured drivers, isn’t that a win-win for them? Publicity from the networks, even with a few irate drivers spewing their displeasure. It seems like a great thing for their exposure.

Again, let me be clear. I’m not saying that NASCAR wants to see wrecks, but it’s a little surprising that they almost never express any genuine concern for the airborne cars. They usually just offer a line “we’ll take a look at it” and go from there.

In short, I don’t agree with Newman’s harshness. It’s not like NASCAR hasn’t shown a dedication to safety in the past and I’m sure it’s always on their agenda. But Newman has a point that NASCAR has seemed to nail down all aspects of these dangerous crashes aside from all four tires in the air. Of course, if Newman is fined over the week, I’m sure we’ll be given an answer as to how serious NASCAR really thinks this problem is.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed the 24 hours of Talladega. It’s amazing how much damage a little rain can do, huh?

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Summer Bedgood and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Bill B
05/06/2013 08:31 AM

To me it sounded like sour grapes about restarting the race. If he had won he would have been saying how great it was that they tried to run the entire race.

Everything else I agree with.

awww shucks
05/06/2013 08:47 AM

i really think Ryan should consider retirement. NASCAR is not the ones driving the cars causing said crashes. i’m glad he is ok but he may need to consider another line of work.

05/06/2013 08:51 AM

NOTHING will change until someone dies. Many have said it and we’ve seen it before in Nascar. We’ve almost had fans die and very little has changed.

And what do you see on those Nascar commercials? The crashes…the “big ones” at Talladega.

Even Nascar’s most popular driver, Dale Jr., doesn’t like it and has said so.

Dale Sr. lost his life in large part because Nascar resisted change and the warnings.

Someone, someday, WILL die and it will be a very dark day (again) for Nascar looking the other way.

Bill B
05/06/2013 09:34 AM

No matter what NASCAR does, as long as there are 43 cars going 150+ mph in a confined space, there will be another death.
I’m not disagreeing with your point about RP racing I’m just pointing out that it is a possibility in any extreme sport.

05/06/2013 10:02 AM

When was the last time a stock car got air born or flipped that didn’t happen at Daytona or Talladega?

Michael in SoCal
05/06/2013 10:48 AM

T-Bone: To answer your question – that would be Atlanta 2010 when Carl Edwards intentionally tagged Keselowski in the rear quarter panel to send him upside down in the air.

05/06/2013 10:57 AM

Of course NASCAR likes to see crashes. Why else would their entire publicity exist of wrecking cars?

It’s not just the cars, it’s the idiots that think they can drive a car into an opening only big enough for a bicycle.

05/06/2013 11:18 AM

To go back to T-Bone, and to be fair, rollovers can happen anywhere. Atlanta and Dover come to mind first, but there have been others. It does happen most often at Daytona and Talladega though, due to the higher speeds. As they said, you can do anything you want, but you can’t fight physics. Cars will go over from time to time regardless of what you do to them. The only way to alleviate that risk at Daytona and Talladega would be to cut the banking in half and take the plates off. But the tracks are still 2.5 miles long. The cars will hit 220 on that track. Look at the tire test at Indy.

05/06/2013 12:06 PM

Pepper, you are so right! They replay the big crashes as publicity for every track – even the tracks where there is no longer “contact” as in Bristol.

I didn’t see the end of the race. I had gone out to dinner with friends. Racing is no longer “must stay around the house all day watching” tv for me.

05/06/2013 12:58 PM

I really am not a RP racing fan. As far as I’m concerned they should replace the four races with short tracks and road courses…at least there’s some skill needed on those tracks. Maybe they could draw straws at the beginning of each race..21 numbered short straws and 22 unnumbered long… If you get a short straw you can sit the race out and still get the amount of points on your straw! The 22 drivers stuck with a long straw must race..and let the points fall where they may!!

05/06/2013 02:09 PM

I hate to be master of the obvious, but the folks complaining about RP racing are the Minority by a lot. even in the article it was stated that these races are very popular with the audiences… Had there been a fairly “civil” race without the big one this same page would be filled with writers complaining of a snoozefest. They are going to wreck, it’s part of it, but Tdega was an exciting race. We’ve had drivers injured (or worse) at Loudon, Richmond and other small tracks, some were running by themselves. Would you outlaw those too? seems like some people want NASCAR turned into a tennis match.

05/06/2013 02:47 PM

As I mentioned in a previous article, Nascar is very lucky, and Kurt for the matter, that the 78 car landed on the 39 car. If not, he would have barrel rolled down the track and cutting him out of his car. We may have been talking about something totally different this morning than the upset win and racing in the dark.

And yes, Nascar loves the crashes. They can hear the cash register jingling every time there is a big one. That’s why someone will die again at one of these tracks. Its just a matter of when.

Glen, the difference is, its not real racing, its a crap shoot. The driver mashes the gas and hopes for the best. Short tracks they at least have control of their destiny.

05/06/2013 02:50 PM

crapshoot? how many RP races have been won by “favorites” the vast majority.

05/06/2013 03:31 PM

@glenn..there are about “25” favorites at each race..maybe more…factoring in start and park teams, engine problems, 2nd rate equipment, pit stops, and experience of driver…the odds are going to be more favorable for the bigger more experienced teams at superspeedways. To me that proves nothing. I believe in the 2 big ones yesterday we lost more “favorites” then second tier cars….it’s more a matter of position during the final laps…and yesterday there were as many second tier teams in the first five rows as there were favs…it’s a crapshoot … even for the big guns….

05/06/2013 03:57 PM

Ryan’s comments harsh? This is the second time this has happened to him and to the ones that say he needs to retire, get over yourselves, he was a victim both times.

NASCAR even added a second bar above the windshield this year which oddly enough is referred to as the Newman bar. Would he have died yesterday without that bar? Should he ever have been put in that position? NASCAR knew exactly what was going to happen with that G_W_C and once again dollar signs made the difference.

Maybe since NASCAR holds the rights to that and other wreck footage they might consider not releasing it especially for advertising or promotion.

Ryan was a whole lot nicer and cooler than I would have been and it’ll be yet another travesty should NASCAR fine him.

05/06/2013 04:34 PM

Hey Summer. Nice job of cherry-picking the interview. I think he was also pissed because it was nearly dark and drizzling. Another driver will die before anything changes. And call me the cynic, but even that will probably end up in a highlight reel.

05/06/2013 04:38 PM

I used to love the frontstretch, but most of the writers are powder blue woosies. I miss you Matt.

Bill B
05/06/2013 07:18 PM

Forget the winner, look back at the top ten finishers at all the RP races. I think you will see many names there that are usually lucky to break the top 20. Yes, a crapshoot.
With that said, the better teams still have a higher probability of winning, just not as high as non-RP tracks.

05/06/2013 08:22 PM

Drivers who wreck always complain and guys who do well are always happy. The way I look at it is you can deal with it or you can stay home. The last 2 laps of that race was incredibly exciting and no one wrecked which was even more impressive.

05/06/2013 09:08 PM

Ryan Newman must of had some clue that NASCAR would make every effort to get that race restarted, come heck or high water. When the first red flag came out, you can bet NASCAR was kicking themselves once they realised that there were FOUR!!!! Fords in the first four positions, and that Edwards was leading! They had to restart that race, hoping that either Kenseth or Johnson would blow by those four! Glad it didn’t work out, although a Toyota was fourth and NASCAR’s chosen one in the chosen brand did finish fifth.

05/06/2013 10:32 PM

Every race at Talladega ends up being the same. A long distance ,high speed demolition derby! I guess I’m not your “Average” race fan,I don’t like to see carnage on track, I like to see close racing, a lot of passing and dicing on track. Not a “ride around “for 180 laps and then a wreck fest demolition derby in the last few laps.
The track should be changed.