Race Weekend Central

The Difference In NASCAR Between Oblivious And Relentless

Once again, I am writing about a topic that, while obvious to the common man (and not to mention that most of us thought it had long ago been taken care of), has reared its ugly head once more: SAFER barriers.

I know what you are thinking: aren’t SAFER barriers old news? Yes, Virginia, they are. Unfortunately (and much to my surprise) I learned during last week’s Daytona 500 that there are, in fact, still areas of the track that are unprotected!

The first moment of surprise came during the waning laps of the 500, when a multiple car pileup, touched off by Kevin Harvick drifting up the track a bit into another car, resulted in, among other things, Danica Patrick going headfirst into — wait for it — a solid concrete portion of the outside wall.

Despite winning at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick was still sore from an accident at Daytona — during which Danica Patrick slammed into a portion of the wall without a SAFER barrier.
Despite winning at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick was still sore from an accident at Daytona — during which Danica Patrick slammed into a portion of the wall without a SAFER barrier.

Oh, did I mention that, while it was touched upon very briefly by Mike Joy that there was no SAFER barrier at that particular spot, the absence was largely glossed over and no further mention of the barrier, or lack thereof, was made?

Luckily, Danica was OK, but others who have hit concrete less severely have not fared too well. It is, after all, the only reason NASCAR spent money on SAFERbarriers in the first place. So I find this omission incredibly incredulous — especially when this event was the race where the No. 3 made its first return to Cup racing since that fateful day so many years ago. I am not the only one.

Last week, during a press meeting, Harvick expressed my sentiments to a tee. Harvick was asked how he felt after he, too, hit an unprotected area after which not much media attention was given to it.

“The tracks, for the most part, don’t listen to really anything unless it’s profitable for their shareholders,” Harvick replied. “So, when you see somebody spending $400 million on their track and they don’t have soft walls around the inside, maybe they could spend $403 million to go ahead and finish the inside of the superspeedway there at Daytona.”

“It was a hard shot. It’s a little bit frustrating because it really shouldn’t even be a debate. I know they have data that shows where the most frequently hit spots are but we wear all this safety equipment and do all the things that we do to these racetracks for that one freak incident to keep things from happening like happened back in 2001. So, it shouldn’t even be a debate. It’s just one of those things, I guess that you just wait around for something else to happen and then they’ll fix it.”

The $400 million Harvick alludes to is the amount, give or take a hundred dollars or so, that Brian France is spending on his private little playground to provide more supposed “fan experiences” and to channel folks into areas to spend more money while there.

I like Harvick, and especially like that he is not afraid to speak his mind. Ironically, it’s that same bare concrete wall that put Kevin where he is today, one that produced one hell of a fan experience all its own 13 years ago.

Let’s hope we never relive it.

Stay off the wall (it’s not all that SAFER!),

Jeff Meyer

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