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Woody: Biggest Story In NASCAR Wasn’t Written

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 7 2010

Despite some pretty big wrecks, like this one at Watkins Glen, there were no serious on-track injuries in NASCAR this past season. Even with the boys having at it. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Every day thousands of planes land safely at airports around the country and we never hear a word about it. There are no glaring newspaper headlines, no program-interrupting news flashes on radio and TV:

“BULLETIN: A jetliner in-bound from Los Angeles carrying 266 passengers has just set down at O’Hare Airport without the slightest hitch. After the flawless landing, Captain Buzz Skywalker said it was one of the smoothest flights he’s ever taken in 25 years as a professional pilot …”

No, there are never any stories about planes that land safely.

That’s why we didn’t hear much about the biggest story in NASCAR this season: all of its planes landed safely.

That’s not to say there weren’t some rocky rides, some incidents when cars flipped, rolled, crashed and smashed. Some of the gravity-defying tumbles looked scary. But not a single driver was injured, and in stock car racing that counts as a safe landing.

The fact that some of the crashes left cars totally destroyed and yet nobody was hurt is testament to NASCAR’s continued commitment to make the sport as safe as humanly possible.

In the old days – or even just a decade ago – there was no way a driver could have walked away from some of the wrecks we’ve seen in the past few seasons. Now they do, and almost routinely.

To me that’s the most important story of the season: not a single driver was injured. There

Perhap the closest NASCAR came to tragedy in 2010 was when Miss Sprint interviewed Carrot Top. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

were a few bumps and bruises but nothing worse than you might get in a backyard football game.

The season-long safety record was especially significant because it came in the year of NASCAR’s “Boys have at it” edict. Critics fretted that the gloves-off signal would turn every race into a demolition derby and every infield would require its own MASH unit.

It didn’t happen. As noted, there were some crashes but not an inordinate number. And although several cars were demolished, no drivers were, and NASCAR is to be commended. It built a safer car and surrounded it by safer walls.

This is not to say that the sport is completely risk-free. It never will be. But it’s about as safe as racing can be, and looking back over the sport’s tragedy-marred history, that’s a significant accomplishment.

There were plenty of headline-grabbing stories, starting with Jimmie Johnson’s incredible fifth title and the continued frustrations of flickering superstars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. There were stories about blowups and breakups. There were sad stories about the passing of long-time racing friends and associates. There were somber stories about teams and tracks struggling through a sour economy.

There was no shortage of NASCAR news.

But the biggest story was the one that wasn’t told: every driver who started the season finished the season. Not a single one was injured. All of NASCAR’s planes landed safely, and that’s the most important story that we never read about.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 7 2010
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • GinaV24 says:

    Good article, Woody. Yes, that is a huge thing to be thankful for — all of the drivers (even ones that I never ever pull for) ended the season in one piece.

    I may be annoyed at NASCAR and the way things are done on TV, but I am happy that everyone went home to their families this year since there have been too many times when people didn’t.

  • Terry says:

    I complain a lot…..I know….I know….about the pretend clone cars. But the fact they are safer is NOT lost on me.
    I miss the big old Bonnevilles….Impala’s….Galaxies…Chargers…Fury’s…Torino’s…..and yes the #21 Cyclone……
    But I also miss Tiny, Fireball,Neil,JDMcD,Adam,Irwin,Weatherly,
    Dale Sr.,Myers,Hassler, Jacoby,Prince,Skeen,Smith,Adcox…..
    I am sorry if I missed anyone…..my memories get jumbled…..Larry someone correct me where I messed up.
    As for Jack R and gravity……to many heartaches (Davey-Alan K) for me. I will never forget seeing the Hooters Hauler pull out that rainy day at Bristol. Glad I could see Tim Richmond run…he was one of a kind.
    So when I continue to @#*&” about clone cars being boring…it is with the above caveat.

  • B Knotts says:

    Well said. NASCAR gets a lot of grief for a lot of things, but they deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done for safety. There is always room for improvement, but they’ve come a long way from just ten years ago.

    The fact that Elliott Sadler came out of his Pocono wreck with little more than the wind knocked out of him is a testament to the safety of the cars.