Emphasis Of Safer Racing Falls More On Drivers Than NASCAR


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The wreck at the end of Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola was something no NASCAR fan wants to see or feel again. When Austin Dillon’s car went into the catchfence a sick feeling came over the NASCAR world, a feeling that was relinquished only when Dillon climbed out of his No.3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Over the past few days several drivers, media members and fans have given their opinion on how to make plate-racing safer for not only the drivers but the fans. While there have been many ideas brought up there’s one thing people need to come to terms with. Pack-racing at the plate tracks is here to stay.

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Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are the only two tracks on the NASCAR circuit that currently requires teams to use restrictor plates. This has been the case since Bobby Allison’s 1987 wreck at Talladega Superspeedway in which Allison blew a tire on the front straightaway and went into the catch fence causing a massive accident and injuring fans in the process.

Since then NASCAR realized they had to slow these cars down on the plate tracks for the safety of everyone. One can only guess how fast cars would go if NASCAR didn’t force team to use restrictor plates on the Superspeedways but there’s no doubt that the cars would be “too fast” for everyone’s tastes. There’s no need for stock cars to exceed 210 MPH.

Of all the theories I have heard the last two days none have been better or more simple than what NASCAR currently has. That means we need to look at other options to make plate-racing safer and look at the drivers and ask if they’re doing all they can do.

For anyone who was around the sport when NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt lost his life at Daytona International Speedway in February 2001 they remember what happened initially after the accident. After that wreck NASCAR took a bigger emphasis on safety and what they developed should be praised. They have a safer car, safer walls and have made sure that they take every precaution to make sure a driver is as safe as they can be inside of a racecar. NASCAR drivers are safer than they have ever been. Sunday night’s wreck proved that.

There’s only one way that drivers can be safer on the plate tracks and the reality is it relies in their hands. Earnhardt’s death rocked the sport in 2001 and it had an impact that is still felt on the sport today. In 2001 fans, drivers and media members were curious about how the next Superspeedway event would go when the sport moved to Talladega Superspeedway in April 2001.

What happened in that race was simply remarkable. Not only did NASCAR have one of its most competitive races that season but it also had one of its safest. That race at Talladega was NASCAR’s last caution-free race. A caution free race at Talladega, yes you read it right. Drivers were very cautious and there was not one mistake that led to a major incident.

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Over the last several seasons we’ve seen drivers pull their heads off their shoulders and make desperation moves at the end of plate races that cause scary accidents. Even three-time series champion Tony Stewart made a desperation move trying to block a hard charging Michael Waltrip at the end of the 2012 Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The move led to a major accident taking out almost the entire field of cars. The amount of times that has happened in recent years are endless with drivers that range from rookies to former champions like Stewart.

At the end of the day drivers need to be more careful at the plate tracks if they want to be more safe. Squeezing in a hole that is three-wide is done with the knowledge that you may not come out of that unscathed. Blocking another driver, like Saturday night’s incident involving Brian Scott and Elliott Sadler, is something that shouldn’t go unnoticed. People think Scott didn’t have another option other to block Sadler. He did. He could have taken the safer route and let Sadler by without making a major incident. Scott instead wanted to keep his chances for winning the race alive and the threw a costly block. I’m not saying that drivers should stop trying to win races but people need to stop acting like all of this is the fault of NASCAR because it’s not.

Drivers nowadays seem to have a false sense of safety and with these safer cars you can understand. These are the best drivers in the country and it’s time for the drivers to take some responsibility and settle down on plate tracks. Drivers have complained that NASCAR has to keep the cars on the ground. The best way to keep the cars on the ground is to not wreck them. Plain and simple.

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