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Woody: Drivers Alive Today Because of Car of Tomorrow

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 30 2009
Joey Logano found out that the Car of Tomorrow has some positive aspects to it on Sunday. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Joey Logano found out that the Car of Tomorrow has some positive aspects to it on Sunday. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Did the Car of Tomorrow save the Star of Tomorrow?

Despite persistent criticism of the COT that was introduced into the Sprint Cup Series, there is accumulating evidence that it is meeting NASCAR’s main goal – increased driver safety.

The latest testimonial is last Sunday’s wild Dover rollover by rookie sensation Joey Logano.

Logano’s Toyota crashed, flipped and barrel-rolled seven times down the concrete track before finally shuddering to a stop on its side.

Amazingly, Logano wriggled out of the wreckage without a bump or a scratch.

“I’m fine,” said the rising young superstar. “It just goes to show how safe these cars are.”

Indeed, there have been several other horrendous-looking crashes involving the COT in which the driver(s) escaped unscathed.

Despite all the griping and grousing about some aspects of the COT, it may be saving lives. There was a time in the sport – perhaps not all that long ago – when a driver almost certainly would not have walked away from such a crash as Logano’s.

Safety was one of the three objectives stated by NASCAR when it engineered the COT. The other two were cost-cutting for teams and better competition on the track. The jury’s still out on the latter two, but I don’t think anyone can argue that NASCAR has, in fact, built a safer race car.

After he finally stopped tumbling, Logano stated the obvious: he had just taken the wildest ride of his young life.

“It started rolling and I was in there thinking, ‘Man, just make this thing stop,’” he said. “It wouldn’t. It just kept going and going. It really scared the heck out of me.”

As scary as it was inside the cockpit, continuing to tumble was the best thing that could have happened. Safety experts explain that it’s not the tumbling that’s dangerous, but rather it’s the hard, sudden stops.

As long as the car’s moving it is dissipating energy and the driver is not subjected to a hard, sudden jolt. Meanwhile inside, the driver is encased in a cocoon of steel and protective padding.

NASCAR deserves a lot of credit as it continues to work to make a dangerous sport as safe as humanly possible. From mandatory head-restraint devices to soft walls to the better-reinforced COT, NASCAR’s mantra continues to be “Safety First.”

At 19, Joey Logano has a lot of racing ahead of him, a great many years in which to pursue a career of tremendous promise.

Thanks in large measure to NASCAR’s safety innovations he’s still around to enjoy it.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 30 2009
5 Comments

5 Comments »

  • SB says:

    Surprising to know that the SAFER barriers and HANS device have had nothing to do with driver safety. One wonders how so many drivers managed to survive so many awful wrecks (a couple dillies at Pocono I remember, and Daytona and ‘Dega, well…

    I’m sure that the COT has safety improvements. But to attribute that as the only reason drivers walk away from wrecks seems like yet another attempt to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse. Racing cars is a dangerous passtime. That’s why most of us will never attempt it. Perhaps, with the higher center of gravity, bump stops, and reluctance to turn, the COT is also responsible for some of the wrecks. Can’t tell.

  • Dave says:

    I don’t think people understand what the gripe is with the COT. No one is complaining about the safety improvements. However, most of the safety improvements could have been updated on the old car. The complaints come from the limited chassis alterations. It has basicly ZERO suspension at speed. It rides around with the shocks bottomed out on plastic spacers. If it isn’t about perfect at the start of a race, you can’t dial it in. Safety, We are all for safety. But competition is what NASCAR was looking for with THIS chassis design. The hope was that if the car handled bad enough, more passing, lead changes, and number of winners would increase. But as always, the cream rises to the top. The teams that ran well before run well now. Safety is GREAT! COT still sucks.

  • dawg says:

    Your article is knee jerk at best. Every time someone wrecks a COT we get this same story. The Cot IS safer. No argument there. The car MAY have saved death or injury. We don’t really know. You have to consider the entire package. The Hans device, & so called “soft walls.”
    When a car is rolling, & shedding parts. It’s dissipating energy. I remember some much worse near 200 mph flips on high speed tracks with the old car. Rusty, & Ryan Newman come to mind. I don’t EVER remember an injury from this type accident.

  • Christian says:

    So, this is the way life is now. Every time there is a wreck, we have to make the claim that the “new car” saved that drivers life. Nevermind that guys have been walking away from horrifying crashes in the post Dale Earnhardt era for a long time.

    Is this car safer? It probably is, but the old car was pretty darn safe too. Ask Matt Kenseth, who flipped at Talladega in the nationwide race, and (gasp) lived to tell about it.

    Honestly, it doesn’t even bother me to talk about the safety improvements in the new car. They are there, they are important, no one wants to see drivers killed (or crippled/brain damaged, ala Jerry Nadeau) while racing. However, to act as though every bad wreck we see would have resulted in death to the driver in the old car is totally absurd.

    Frankly, the fact that the car rolled over at all is the more important problem in my eyes. With the lower center of gravity on the old car, it probably wouldn’t have even happened. It isn’t the first time that the COT has rolled in situations where the old car never did. Nascar should fix that… oh, and make the COT not so butt ugly while they are at it.