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Minter: Talladega Scene Won’t Be Forgotten

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 27 2009
Spectators look on after Carl Edward's crash damaged the fence and injured fans. (RacinToday.com photo by David Vaughn)

Spectators look on after Carl Edward's crash damaged the fence and injured fans. (RacinToday.com photo by David Vaughn)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Talladega, Ala. – Reporters are probably the least qualified of anyone involved to solve the problems that come with racing today’s NASCAR cars at Talladega Superspeedway.

So the best approach for scribes to take is to observe, report what they see and let the readers decide what they think.

That being said, here are some images that remain vivid, even after a day to ponder the events surrounding Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

The first comes from early in the race – Mark Martin being interviewed after being involved in the first “Big One” crash in Turn Four on Lap 7. Maybe it was a missed interpretation, but the smile on Martin’s face seemed almost as bright as the one from a week ago when he won at Phoenix. Only Martin can say for sure, but it appeared that he was more than glad to be done with Talladega after only a handful of laps – and to still be in one piece after his car was wiped out.

Another image is more horrifying. The press box overlooks the tri-oval at Talladega, about 10 rows or so up from the catchfence. Carl Edwards, a man many in the media have become friends with, a man who has joined in on the post-race parking lot media gatherings and invited media members to share a meal in his motorcoach, is strapped in his car, defenseless, as it sails upside down toward the catchfence.

The car strikes the fence, much like Bobby Allison’s in 1987.  The fence is bowing inward towards the grandstands, rocking back and forth. Dust is obscuring the view, but it’s clear that parts of Edwards’ car are flying into the air and who knows where else. It also clear that the car is perilously close to clearing the fence and that the part of the car offering the least protection is all Edwards has going for him at the moment.

Nearby, a reporter gasps, “Oh my God.”

Mercifully Edwards car fell back to the asphalt and he emerged unhurt.

Just as it’s beginning to sink in that rookie Brad Keselowski and his maverick, party-loving car owner James Finch have scored a stunning upset, it becomes evident that the initial reports of no injuries is premature.

A short walking distance away from the press box, rescue personnel are attending to fans struck by pieces of either Edwards’ car or the fence.

Two women and a man have bruised arms and hands and chests. Their traveling companions say it appeared they were struck by a spring rubber from either Edwards’ car or that of Ryan Newman, who also crashed at the finish.

At the top of the grandstand, a woman is lying on a backboard, her head restrained. A rescue worker sits beside her, using a white towel to dab the blood from her face. The towel is stained bright red.

It appears the woman’s jaw was struck by debris. Fans leaving their seats glance at her, but keep on walking.

Security personnel are herding people away from the scene. The track PA announcer reminds fans that it’s time to exit the grandstands.

It was time to go home, and to think long and hard about whether racing such as it is at Talladega is worth the risks to drivers and fans. Bump drafting and 30-car packs are good for thrills, if it weren’t for the risks. Yellow-line rules work sometimes and sometimes they don’t.

The bottom line is whether the ticket-buying public, which ultimately determines what the final product will become, agrees more with what Carl Edwards had to say afterwards or with Keselowski.

Here’s a short version of what the two had to say.

Edwards: “NASCAR just puts us in this box… and we’ll race like this until we kill somebody and then they’ll change it.”

Keselowski: “There has to be some element of danger in it. That’s what the fans want.”

You decide.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 27 2009


  • dawg says:

    Wasn’t NA$CARs response to a similar incident a few years ago. To leave those vulnerable lower seats unsold? One would think if it was a good idea then, it would still be a good idea. With the difficulty selling out now, I would think the first 4-5 rows could be left open with little financial penalty. They aren’t good seats anyway, why put people in them?

  • Dave Shaut says:

    In the late ’60s or very early ’70s I was attending a Modified Race at Shangrila Speedway in Owego, NY. Two open-wheeled modifieds came out of turn four racing for position, an of course accelerating. I was standing in the infield pits, at the end of the front stretch. The one of the front tires on the car passing on the outside ran up on one of the rear tires of the other car and was launched into the air and over the catch fence, into the grandstand. As I recall, four people were killed. It is a site I’ll never forget.

    Something needs to be done at Talladega and Daytona. Get rid of restrictor plates, go to smaller engines, shorten the tracks, something. Too much danger for drivers and fans, and generally boring racing for most of the race, then always multiple big crashes that take out a lot of cars.