Minter: They’re Going 200 mph Again At Talladega
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
In his final column, David Poole called for changes to the race track at Talladega Superspeedway to prevent a disaster from happening in light of the Carl Edwards crash at the end of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.
Poole pointed out that changes to the cars, restrictor plates, yellow line rules and other measures haven’t fixed the problems that come with racing on a track designed to be as fast as possible. He said racing at Talladega is out of control and suggested changing the banking in the turns or the shape or size of the race track.
Jimmie Johnson, on a teleconference Tuesday, said lowering the banking in the turns is the only way he sees to put drivers in a position where they have to lift off the throttle at some point. That, he said, would break up the b ig packs which would make drafting less of a factor and the racing safer for drivers and fans alike.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. echoed the sentiments of track and NASCAR officials when he said that’s not likely to happen.
“People have talked about changing the track,” he said. “That’s impossible to do. There’s no way you can justify it under the current economic state of the sport, of the track itself, of the company that owns the track.
“So the track is not going to change. They just need to look in some other areas.”
NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said series officials likely will begin issuing penalties to drivers who race too aggressively.
“We tried letting the competitors police themselves when it comes to blocking and bump drafting. After reviewing all of those procedures, we might have to start making some judgment calls of our own and penalize, issue penalties for drivers who blatantly block and abuse the bump drafting,” Hunter said. “We are going to take whatever measures we need to in order to ensure the races are as safe as possible for everyone.”
Johnson and Dale Earnhart Jr. both say that penalties are problematic because drivers will still try every trick they know to win a race. They’re race drivers, and as such will do whatever it takes to beat a competitor.
“I would advise against doing anything extra or being stricter,” Earnhardt said. “You run the risk of taking the race out of the drivers’ hands. I think we do a good job of policing it pretty much on our own now.
“I mean, it is a race. First and foremost, we’re out there racing. Blocking, weaving, carrying on is part of the game.”
Earnhardt did offer one bit of information that sheds a lot of light on why cars are flying again at Talladega.
He said Brad Keselowski ran an average speed of 199 miles per hour when he was pushing Carl Edwards to the front at the finish. Earnhardt himself and his drafting partner Ryan Newman were just a tick slower, he said, adding that both duos were far faster than the 190 miles per hour limit that NASCAR seeks at Talladega.
“We are doing 10 more miles an hour being able to tag up and run bumper to bumper like we are,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where the threshold is for cars getting airborne, is about the 195 mile-an-hour range.
“We have to think what we can do to get back under that threshold a little bit and not create this situation in the future.
“It’s always been there. We just have been lucky.”
With each passing day, the worries about Talladega likely will ease, as they usually do.
This time around, David Poole won’t be around to press the issue. His final column, published the day he died at age 50, closed with several questions, which someone else will have to seek the answers for.
Here are his final four paragraphs:
“All I want is for someone to tell me what’s acceptable. We apparently established Sunday that seven fans being injured – one spent the night in a hospital with a broken jaw – is OK.
“It seems we’ve decided we can live with that much damage being done to the sport’s customers for ‘good racing.’
“How many people have to be listed in ‘guarded’ or ‘critical’ condition before we say that’s too much? Is it lead changes? If we have fewer than five fans hurt for every lead change, is that acceptable?
“Does somebody have to die before we’ve decided we don’t have control?”8 Comments