Victory Lap: How Safe Is NASCAR?


The Victory Lap takes the important points of each week and offers analysis on how it all happened in addition to predictions on the week to come.

If there is one word to describe the past week it would be “Wow.” Everyday there was something new. Danica Patrick and her feud with Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch was suspended, and Tyler Reddick, Ryan Reed, and Joey Logano all won their first race at the World Center of Racing. However, the story that caused the largest ripple through the NASCAR community was Kyle Busch watching the Daytona 500 on Sunday from a hospital bed.

Busch competed in Saturday’s Alert Today Florida 300 Xfinity Series opener and was involved in a terrible crash in the closing laps. Busch sustained a compound fracture in his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture to his left foot. Matt Crafton stepped in for an injured Busch and finished a respectable 18th in his first Sprint Cup Series start.

Much of the focus since the accident has been on SAFER barriers and why they weren’t installed on the inside walls at Daytona. While they should’ve been there it’s easy to say that after the fact. If we knew what we know today twenty years ago, Dale Earnhardt, Kenny Irwin Jr., Adam Petty and many other drivers would still be with us today. Saturday’s race emphasizes the fact that auto racing will never be safe. Cars going over 190 mph just inches apart will never be free from danger.

I respect Joie Chitwood III for owning up and committing to rectifying the issue before NASCAR returns in July. Atlanta and Talladega also committed to adding additional SAFER barriers to make racing safer. There are many other tracks that should follow suit. Most notably Watkins Glen. Some of the worst crashes in the history of NASCAR have occurred at the Glen and changes should be made before the series returns in August. The danger was made clear during last year’s race but I’m not aware of any changes that have been made since that time. Currently the track is mostly made up of Armco barriers and protective tire packs which cause cars to bounce back into traffic during a crash.

We can all agree that if SAFER barriers would’ve been in place on Saturday the impact Kyle Busch sustained would’ve lessened considerably. However, it’s impossible to guarantee that he would walk away injury free. Given these risks what does Kyle Busch have to gain by competing on a regular basis in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series with less experienced drivers? Was losing a chance to win the Daytona 500 worth the risk of getting injured on Saturday in pursuit of a much smaller prize? I would personally have a hard time justifying that.

In the end it doesn’t matter who was injured on Saturday. A driver was hurt and the tracks on the circuit should be doing everything they can to prevent it. However, it shouldn’t only be a wake up call to the track owners but also drivers like Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth who participate in the lower tier series on a regular basis. Each time a driver straps in the car they accept that it could possibly be their last time. It’s the nature of the sport and while steps can be taken to minimize the risk it will never go away.

Aaron Hale is a Staff Writer for on the FanSided Network. Follow us on Twitter @Beyond_The_Flag and “Like” us on Facebook.