The Frontstretch: Stay Safe at the Track, Not Afraid by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday July 24, 2012

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Stay Safe at the Track, Not Afraid

Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday July 24, 2012


We’re off to the track, a place full of people and fun. Into the backpack go scanners, headsets, favorite beverages, maybe a snack or two, Sharpies, tickets! Don’t forget the tickets. Sunblock, camera and perhaps a rain poncho. We don comfortable walking shoes and a hat. Ready to face a daylong voyage into the world of fandom, we plot out what haulers we’ll visit, what drivers are scheduled to appear and prepare for long lines and lots of patience. But nowhere in this list do we wonder if we’ll be safe. Of course we will be, if we pay attention to our surrounds and keep our feet to the path.

Crammed into overflowing stands, NASCAR fans feel safe. And that’s the way it should be!

This is how life ought to be and how it is almost every day. Unfortunately, periodically a tragedy occurs that will make us question whether everything is being done to prevent a complete nutjob from mowing down dozens of innocent people enjoying a moment of fun in their busy lives. Doubt surfaces and we wonder if we should add more metal detectors, more guards, more restrictions, more…to what end?

Most weeks I am busy exploring the myriad ways that NASCAR—one of the largest spectator sports in the world—brings joy to our lives. However, this week I am trapped by the headlines pouring out of Aurora, CO and the immediate effects that night of terror has already brought to my world. When I’m not sitting in front of my keyboard, the rest of my time is spent showing movies to the paying public. That has been a job fraught with tension and sadness since last Thursday night.

Perhaps I manage a venue on a much smaller scale than a race track, but we share the same responsibilities: primarily the comfort, safety and pleasure of our patrons. The show—being a race or a film—may be the first reason people fill the seats. But it is the service provided by a venue that brings them back. And that’s why I speak of sadness.

In two short minutes, every effort ever made to extend a welcome to the public was wiped out with a hail of bullets. After the shooting, parents thought twice before deciding it would be better to find another form of entertainment today. Reasonable adults watched somebody sit in the seat next to them, feared the very worst could recur, and departed in search of a more comforting environment. We added extra security measures, it reassured some on the surface—but the reality remained. What that madman did was calculated to skirt around every reasonable step taken to ensure those movie-goers would be safe that night.

When we arrive at the track, either security or local law enforcement check our bags. There’s a list of restricted items posted on the chain link fence. Infield, ID’s and credentials are challenged almost as often as you breathe. Every 20 feet around the track we encounter people and procedures put in place to ensure that 90k fans and teams will have a great day. But who can guarantee that a city full of people will not encounter any difficulties in a 24 hour period, let alone predict when or where a lunatic will surface. Should we change the way we live—stop going to these events that liven our world with joy—while we ponder the probabilities?

No. For it is in that moment of hesitation the evil has won.

We should remember those who lost their lives, their families, and their innocence in the dark of a theatre. But we’ll honor their memories by continuing to live as we always have. Yes, be aware of your surroundings and the actions of others. Tell a person of responsibility if you see something that isn’t quite as it should be. Close doors that ought to be locked. But most of all, don’t hide your life behind locks and barred windows.

We’re a free nation. Exercise that right and pack your cooler for the track. We can only truly ever live through our actions, not our fears.

Support those who were directly affected by the tragic event in Aurora, CO by clicking on

Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat
Chicagoland: NNS in the No. 7 Chevrolet
Qualified: 13th
Finished: 14th (lead lap)
Points Position: 9th

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