Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Is NASCAR going too far for a thrill?

Early this week, NASCAR recieved an offer from Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage to add a test session at TMS before the Samsung 500 April 6th, but NASCAR turned the offer down.
Gossage's reasons for wanting the tests were sound, especially when it comes to safety issues. There were eleven cautions at last weekend's UAW-Dodge, in spite of testing, he points out, also noting that because of weather changes, the testing at LVMS earlier this year wasn't conclusive.

"My concern is that they did have an open test at Las Vegas and still had a record number of cautions, including three serious crashes involving former Cup champions," said Gossage, referring to wrecks involving Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. "We only have had a two-car Goodyear test so we could see a lot of crashes, and that causes me concern. I'm sure the teams would like as much data and track time as possible to reach that comfort level with the car and its performance at our speedway."

Texas should have a test, in my opinion, before the Cup race there, because it is probably the most treacherous of the 1.5 mile tri-ovals on the Cup schedule. The transitions from the straightaways to the turns, and visa versa are abrupt, and since everybody will be a rookie at that track it should be important for the teams to find out how the Sprint Cup car will react to those transitions. We can only be certain, from what we have seen, that it will not act like the other car did. Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton agree:

"I think Texas will be the toughest track we go to with this car, [and] it's already a tough racetrack," Gordon said. "And when you look at the transitions, the vertical loads, the bumps and the speeds, it's probably going to be closer to [Las Vegas] than to any other track we go to. The biggest challenge we're going to have with the Impala going forward this year is going to tracks that we haven't tested at and been to and gotten the data and the laps with the telemetry."
Added Jeff Burton, defending champion of Texas' spring race: "I think there are a lot of challenges at Texas -- maybe more so than [Las Vegas]. Texas is a little rougher. With this car, the bumps seem to be a pretty major issue, so I think Texas is going to be quite a challenge with this car. Some teams are going to hit and some teams aren't. The success we were able to do there last year, none of that works. None of that information will be worth a hoot, so it's starting all over again."

Does NASCAR not learn? They waited until after the death of Fireball Roberts before they required fire extinguishers and the rubberized fuel cell that helps prevent fuel from spilling. They waited until after Bobby Allison's near fatal accident, and the fatal accidents of Clifford Allison and Neil Bonnet before they even considered developing a safer car. And their concern about the HANS device and SAFER barriers didn't even surface until it was too late for Dale Earnhardt, Kenny Irwin, Jr, and Adam Petty.
Even though the new Sprint Cup car is much safer than the older car--and probably saved the life of Jeff Gordon last Sunday, and prevented serious injury to him and Tony Stewart, who also suffered a hard hit--there are still many tracks, including the majority of tracks owned by ISC, that do not have SAFER barriers all around, especially where most needed around the emergency access points.
Testing at Texas would be a safety measure, not a competition measure, and NASCAR should reconsider its denial of Gossage's proposal if they really want to prevent bad accidents in the Samsung 500.
Perhaps they don't. Perhaps they somehow feel that the best way to draw the fans is through morbid curiousity.
I know some people find crashes thrilling, but those who do are very, very far from a majority among NASCAR race fans. Maybe I am an idealist, but I like to think that most of us are there for the thrill of the race itself.
Does NASCAR realize this, or are they just hoping for a wreckfest?
I would like to think otherwise, that they really do want to present a good product for the fans--that would be good racing--as they have so far this season. They should not use the safer cars and safety devices as an excuse to promote more wrecks, because any fans they gain in that way would not be real fans, and will not stick around long before going back to their WWE matches.
Gossage offered to have the test the Wednesday before the Samsung 500, or on Thursday, the next day, during scheduled race week activities. That would not seriously disrupt anyone's schedule, and NASCAR should take the offer seriously, instead of precipitously brushing it off as they have initially.

1 comment:

TSRFan-John said...

Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and let's not forget Craftsman Truck Series driver Tony Roper, who died in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway the same year as Adam and Kenny.

NASCAR needs to quit talking about safety and do something.